The following is a guest post by Chris Estus. Chris is an “Aspiring Emergent.” He left the friendly local mega-church in 2011 to start Pioneer at Asbury – A worshiping community of people in, in need of or interested in recovery. His worship CD – The Chris Estus Band can be sampled at www.thechrisestusband.com His email is firstname.lastname@example.org. This report of Chris’s experience is posted with Rob Bell’s permission.
After one particularly nasty gig at a swingers club, I knew I had to quit the bar band. I called my 12-Step Sponsor the next morning and told him I needed a new musical connection. He suggested that I pray. I prayed and then went to the mega church that I had been attending. I opened the bulletin to an advertisement stating “Worship Team Needs Guitarist – Auditions On Wednesday”. My sponsor is a genius.
After a few years I had the privilege of making a pilgrimage that every Mega Church Contemporary Christian Praise and Worship Artist aspires to. Once in one’s lifetime, it is taught, one should go to Sydney for the Hillsong Conference. Since I am blessed and highly favored, I have attended 3 times and I loved it.
Last year, while trying to ignore somebody sharing in a 12-Step meeting, I received an email announcing 2 Days with Rob Bell in Laguna Beach, CA. Since my current journey from Buddy of the Mega Church Pastor to Aspiring Emergent had been (and still is being) initiated, encouraged, informed and affirmed by Rob Bell books, films, videos and podcasts, I got out my credit card and signed up immediately. Last week I made the journey for the 3rd time and I loved it.
In both sets of journeys, I have discovered and experienced aspects of the human search for identity, belonging and mission. Our dual-consciousness might cause us to look at these gatherings through the lens of wrong/right, happy clappy/new orthodoxy or spiritual consumerism/spiritual intellectual elitism. My aspiring emergent, recovering sober alcoholic, conflict avoidant, co-dependent consciousness helps me look at both movements as collections of people longing for direction and connection. Strangely, the Spirit of Joel Osteen resides in both worlds, and I love it.
Darlene Zschech was the worship pastor, the face and voice of Hillsong Church. She is the spiritual mother, mentor, big sister, favorite aunt and baby sitter for a generation of worship leaders, singers and musicians. Her presence, tone, words and countenance are sincere and connecting. She makes you feel like a member of the team and part of something significant. She and her husband Mark, along with Pastor Brian Houston, started Hillsong Conference in 1989 as a venue to champion the cause of and equip the local church around the world. Each year the roster is filled with the big names of Mega Church Christendom i.e. T.D. Jakes, Joyce Meyers, Joel Osteen, Bill Hybels, Chris Tomlin, Delirious to name just a few. Each year, 25,000 or so of us would travel from around the world to fill the basketball arena and other venues at the Sydney Olympic Park.