04 Jul Taste of Heaven
I think we tasted Heaven. I mean yesterday, in our Sunday celebration. The sanctuary was packed, which is usually not the case for a holiday weekend like the 4th of July. It wasn’t packed because everyone decided to show up on an off weekend, though.
It was packed because NewHeart gathered with our sister church, Iglesia Cristiana Sonrise. Sonrise is a Spanish-speaking Foursquare Church that meets on the NewHeart campus every Sunday at 2:00 pm, as well as Tuesday evenings for their midweek Bible Study. They’ve been meeting there for four years now.
This wasn’t the first time they’ve joined with us. They gathered with us for a Celebration of Thanksgiving over our newly remodeled sanctuary back in November. But I realized then that on that day, they were with us more as guests, rather than family members. We had a wonderful shared Thanksgiving meal together after that celebration, but I found my heart longing for more in the relationship.
Several weeks ago, I had lunch with their pastor, Frank Ruiz. We have a close and mutually respected and affectionate relationship as friends, not just pastors. Back then, I shared with him, and he mirrored my heart, that we would like to bring our churches together more regularly for a worship celebration with shared leadership.
Well, yesterday was the first time we’ve done so with such intention. As the “first Sunday” of the month, NewHeart shares communion and offers opportunity for people to be baptized in water. Then, about every 3-4 months, we set aside an entire celebration for worship through music and song. We believe that the Holy Spirit moves strongly, powerfully through the avenue of musical and lyric-filled worship. So, we decided to do our “Worship Sunday” with Sonrise, including a combined worship team and lyrics in English AND Spanish.
I wasn’t sure how it would go. I was excited, but anxious. Would NewHeart show up? Would we be accepting and open-armed? Would we worship with the same passion with Spanish on the screen instead of English?
In short, I was BLOWN AWAY! This was not just two churches sharing a building, this was ONE UNIFIED Church! This was not one group of people added to another, this was two groups who came together in UNITY who MULTIPLIED and reached a place of worship that was unparalleled in my 25 year history here! I shared at the end my sense that we really did experience a taste of what Heaven is going to be like.
We had all the kids in with us for the first portion of the celebration. A little girl just about 2 years old walked her way to the middle aisle in the front and danced her heart out! After the celebration, at the BBQ potluck we enjoyed following the celebration, a dad brought me a picture his 4 year old son drew while we were worshiping. It was a picture of Jesus with x’s and o’s all over it and his written words, “I love you Jesus”. It was just awesome!
At one point early in the celebration, as I introduced myself to Sonrise and Pastor Frank to NewHeart, I asked people to speak out what country they were from. It turned out that in our small building, with about 140 present, there were 14 COUNTRIES represented! All right here in “lily white” Simi Valley! Someone who came later made it 15 COUNTRIES!
At another point near the end, we were speaking out loud our praise to God corporately and encouraged the congregation to speak out their praise in their native language. It was absolutely incredible the sound in the building.
In 25+ years at NewHeart, I have never experienced what we shared yesterday. It was truly a taste of Heaven that I believe will be reflected even in the next weeks as each congregation again gathers separately in our regular schedules. It was a taste of Heaven that we will gather to do again sometime soon!
If you were there, what was your experience? Share it with us in the comments below or on the Facebook page if you are reading from there.