I wanted to post this on Dec. 30th, right before Onething 2015 morning session with Audrey Assad, Matt Maher and Francis Chan but I did not finish the second to last paragraph. So here it goes, one of the stories where I can humbly acknowledge that I have not screwed up very badly in assertively prevailing in praying for what has followed as one of the most beautiful reconciliation and worship moments I have witnessed. It is very personal and I don't usually post such intimate reflections but sometimes I have to suck it up and just share things that are allowed to be shared.
In 2009, while on staff at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, during prayer, I received a desire which could be best articulated as a desire to see a united Body of Christ praising God together in the U.S., including Catholics. I have seen it done before in many nations were I lived. Growing up as a young adult in Poland, we Catholics would organize and invite Protestants, non-denom, and Pentecostals to join for the March for Jesus, joint street evangelization, conferences or prayer initiatives. Living in Russia, we saw hundreds and thousands of people from different Christian backgrounds coming to seek God's face, praise Him together and enter into deeper understanding of our callings and visions. And it wasn't a surprise for me to participate in similar gatherings even while living in the Middle East. Surprisingly, I have not been able to see many of the same in the U.S., since we moved back here in 2003.
So, at that moment in 2009, not knowing any Catholics in the U.S., I googled "Catholic worship leaders". It did not take me long to pick which one I sensed would fit the vision that was crystalizing in my heart: Matt Maher. At this point, I didn't know any Catholics personally, except a group of homeschoolers in an online forum, I never went to any Catholic services since moving to the U.S. from Qatar in 2003. I had no contact with any Catholic parish, organization or priest.
We were planning to go to TheCall in Houston for a prayer rally around the newest abortion clinic that was about to be opened. I had a sense to search for "Catholic events" in Houston during that weekend. I found two: a John Michael Talbot concert and Matt Maher playing during the Mass in a small suburban parish. I told Keith we needed to go to both.
After the concert I briefly talked to John Michael Talbot, telling him how we were copying his tape recordings for years during Communism and how popular his music was behind the Iron Curtain. He was the first Catholic in the U.S. I encountered personally.
After the rally we went to the church and that was my first Mass in the U.S. After Mass, we wanted somehow to briefly talk to Matt and we did, in the parking lot after everyone had left. We told him we were 'from IHOP' and 'from the Call'. I told him that I believed "he is supposed to play with IHOP and TheCall" some time in the future. When I was saying this, my brain was telling me: "This is the stupidest introduction I could make. The guy will think we are the weirdosmatics who claim daily downloads from God and try to prophesy over everything that is alive in a five yard distance." But my gut was sensing the kairos moment that no mishaps of words could blow away. Matt was moved, we were moved, we prayed and asked God to take us from this point of history to the next and we asked for Him to arrange the time. Or something like that. This happened in January 2010, in a parking lot of the Our Lady of Rosary in the suburbs of Houston. (I am recalling this meeting to the best of my memory). That was 5 years and 11 months ago.
If you are into anything even remotely touching ecumenical dialogue, you know that papers, declarations and formal documents do not move people into trusting each other, they just open up the horizons and give a general way of entering into conversation, providing understanding, language and theological as well as historical background to further explorations. But the heart of ecumenism is in relationships which start when we see a similar trait of Jesus in another person who wants to love us as He does and whom we decide to encounter, hoping to discover similarities leading us toward His presence. Mutual honor, respect and learning from each other proceeds any theological discussion. So we left it at that and communicated every now and then, seeing if God was moving us toward something more concrete.
Matt visited IHOP soon after (with Leeland) and I made them good scrambled eggs at 7 am, because spiritual life totally depends on it. Soon after, Matt's manager sent us Matt's CD and another young girl's CD, saying she recommends her music, or something like that. I listened to the first two measures of the first song on that girl's CD and suddenly I had the feeling that "she will make it big" and "she will do that unity thing with Matt". I looked at the name on the cover. It was Audrey Assad. It happened that I met her soon after and clumsily asked to pray for her, which she agreed to. In that moment the Spirit's voice was gently descending and the Unspoken brilliance of His creative power rested peacefully in that place. A call to trust was born. It felt like swirls of colors breaking from the prism while echoing the sounds of heaven. Enough said. Disclaimer: I am not that prophetic but this was quite hard not to hear. At this point I know you might think that I am making this stuff up, but I don't care. Something intensified for a moment, and then, as it usually happens, died. The vision went dormant, the expectation of a relationship between the Evangelicals/Charismatics and Catholics sort of died and life went on.
I feel disunity in the Church strongly. It is almost a physical thing for me; it is violent and the wound I experience is very deep. There are seasons where the only decent expressions in prayer are growling lamentations and I feel the torment of the hordes of hell raising the voice of triumph over earthly divisions, the claims of a Church victorious sound pitiful, and the norm is an unawareness of the lack of credibility of witness through becoming One Voice. Notions of unity are dismissed as naivete, and no one grieves or cries over this wound. To make people agree to come together as one requires an enormous amount of spiritual grit, endurance, discernment, assertiveness, favor, spiritual warfare, time, conversations, relationship building, failures, being misunderstood, being considered imprudent and plain crazy; it demands travailing, endurance, frustration, and waiting for peace where there is only crucifixion. It takes you through feeling stupid among the wise ones and it makes you look inadequate and foolish among the knowledgeable ones. This deal of 'becoming one' demands being open to the kairos moments of encountering God and His people and prayer and changing everything when He asks. No formula can deliver what God makes out of our weak efforts and no perfect planning or marketing will ever achieve what His wisdom anoints in a moment and among people He chooses as His own. The price for restoring the Body to become one is death in totality but Jesus' sweating blood is worth it all.
Today at 9am, I will sit on a burgundy chair among 20,000 people and experience Jesus being worshipped by one Body when Matt and Audrey will lead the Onething2015 conference in praise and worship. I don't feel any closure to this story, quite the opposite. Let's see what happens.