Last weekend my buddy Justin Rizzo and I did a Friday evening of teaching and worship in Danville, CA with East Bay Prayer Furnace and East Bay Four Square Church (http://eastbayfoursquare.com). There is a very unique relationship between the senior pastor of the church and Jim Stillwell who is the director of the prayer furnace. The Lord has clearly put them together as partners in the praying church movement and I am very excited to see what will be happening with them in the years to come. I encourage all who are in the East Bay area to get connected to them through Twitter and Facebook and give them a visit. It would definitely be worth your time.
The following morning Justin and I got up early and jumped into our rental car to catch some West Coast scenery on our way up to Redding. We knew it was the long way but we took Highway 1 North, then crossed over the mountains heading east towards the Redwoods. It was stunning. We pulled in to Redding about 11:30PM Saturday night and stayed at the local Marriott.
Sunday morning we went to Bethel Church. Our GPS first led us astray so we ended walking in late, about 10:25, for the 10:30 service. The room was packed. From what we could tell, there was not an extra seat in the house to be sat in. Nonetheless, we settled into a comfy standing spot against a side wall towards the back. Brian and Jenn Johnson led worship that morning and it was great. I felt the presence of the Lord many times throughout worship. An hour later worship concluded and Eric Johnson came up to give the sermon for the morning. He taught on 4 principles he lives by in order to exemplify the truth that ministry is not what we do but rather who we are. It was clear and provoking. A superb message.
After the service Justin and I were able to connect with Jenn Johnson and hear more about her family and what all the Lord is doing in their midst. She was very talkative and friendly – easy to have a conversation with. We spoke about music, life and people with whom we had mutual friendships. After about 15 minutes it came to a close because I received a text from Banning Liebscher that he was ready for our meeting. He was gracious enough to take time out of his busy schedule to connect with us. We met him in front of Bethel’s bookstore and then made our way to a little room in the back of the church for the meeting. Banning is the director and founder of Jesus Culture, which is a global worship movement that consists of the likes of Kim Walker-Smith and Chris Quilala. Banning teaches at the majority of their events on the topics of revival, holiness and how to create a culture that worships and exemplifies Jesus.
Our meeting with him was great. He is a very down to earth guy that clearly has a business chip. To build and sustain a ministry of this magnitude the Lord would need someone with such a skill-set. We talked a little about family but mostly about his transition into planting a church in Sacramento. He is not sure what it will be called but it will most likely be Jesus Culture Church. He is excited and overwhelmed with all that this will entail. And I, for one, am very excited for him.
What impacted my heart the most about him was his humble drive to serve people while being open to the ideas and opinions people have about what he is doing. When I asked him what has been a key practice for him to live by in a church where there are so many high level leaders around, his reply was, “relationships.” I could not agree with him more. It is about people and individual hearts, not agendas. Banning gets it.
The Lord is changing the understanding and expression of Christianity in this generation and Banning is on the front lines of this movement. I know he would appreciate your prayers.