Here’s an article that I wrote for the Evangelical Alliance – click here to see it on their site. I’ve pasted the ‘uncut’ version below (the wordier version!) 😉
photo (c) Josh Hailes
The BigChurchDayOut (BCDO) is now a massive annual event, seeing over 20,000 people gather at the start of the summer for a festival of all-age Christian celebration. So when I heard that the organisers were planning a BigChurchNightIn I was a little sceptical. How do you bring the scale of that sort of event down to create a ‘cosy night in’? Well, BCDO has just finished its eight-night BigChurchNightIn worship tour, featuring Matt Redman and the Rend Collective, which travelled to church venues across the country. The final night, December 1, was in London so I hopped on a train and bus to go and check it out.
The event’s promotional video asked people, “Fancy a night in? Just you and a few friends, maybe put a bit of music on and see what God’s got in store?” The idea was laidback and intimate: to take a few worship leaders out onto the road to spend an evening with church friends, with no other agenda than to be united in worship with God at the centre.
Tim Jupp, the man behind BCDO, said: “Kicking off the first of what we hope will be many BigChurchNightIn tours, this tour with Rend Collective and Matt Redman has been incredibly exciting as it represents so much of the heart and vision of the BigChurchDayOut, with a focus on celebration and drawing the wider church together.”
In House of Praise, London 2,500 people gathered with expectant hearts. The atmosphere was explosive, with people ready to worship as soon as Rend Collective appeared. The venue managed to capture a sense of intimacy really well – I had no idea there were so many people there until the evening’s host told us.
Rend Collective were their usual brilliant selves, singing some of their best-known songs, such as the lively “Come On My Soul” and “Praise Like Fireworks” and emotive “Alabaster”. From the outset lead singer Chris said that: “human voices connecting with God are so much more powerful than the PA system – we want to sing with you, not at you”, adding the challenge: “however crazy you want to go tonight we just want to let you know we are up for it too”. They included their now classic version of “Be Thou My Vision” (“You Are My Vision”).
Drummer/band leader Gareth talked about us all being “one giant collective” that evening, and it was great to see two trumpeters join them on stage for a couple of songs – I had noticed them tweeting earlier in the tour, giving anyone who played a brass instrument an invitation to play alongside them.
Gareth commented that there is “nothing on earth that has a force like the living, breathing church” and they went on to sing their frantic “Build Your Kingdom Here”. It is obvious that their hearts’ desire is to facilitate authentic worship and there were many moments in which they pulled back so the crowd could take the lead on vocals. At one point we all sang “Yes Jesus Loves Me” together!
Bass player Patrick then spoke to us about Compassion, the charity that facilitates sponsoring children around the world. When he first heard the statistics about how poor over 90 percent of the world’s population is he got angry with God, and asked Him why He hadn’t done anything about it. God replied, “I have. I made you.” He challenged us to worship with our hands and feet and a whopping 113 children were sponsored by the end of the night. Fantastic.
Rend Collective told me afterwards that: “We had an amazing time on the BCNI tour. We believe that the local church is God’s hope on this earth and BCNI was a perfect opportunity to encourage and stir it up for the kingdom through worship. To that end the tour was a huge success, with thousands of Christians gathering in their local communities to sing the truths of our faith. Through Compassion, over 400 children in poverty have been blessed through their sponsorship programme; a beautiful expression of worship! We were privileged to be involved.”
After a short interval, Matt Redman, joined with seven musicians, took to the stage. The crowd immediately rocked out to some old and new favourites such as “Blessed Be Your Name” and “We Are Here For You”. Matt was excited to be in the “best city in the world” for the last night of the tour and looked back over the year’s celebrations, including the Jubilee, Olympics and Paralympics, but said we have something far better to celebrate – God has restored us to friendship with Him. He said that we aren’t doing anything new, simply joining in with the eternal song of Jesus, and that’s certainly what it felt like – a people from all over the city, covering all ages, joining together with the same purpose.
Matt and his band took us through a medley of hymns such as “Here Is Love Vast As the Ocean”, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” and finished with the final verse of “Amazing Grace”.
I was interested to see Matt pulling back from his mic at times too, allowing the sound of thousands of voices to fill the hall.
Towards the end of the evening Matt led us in some of his really high-energy anthems, such as “Redemption Song” and “Dancing Generation” and the whole venue bounced (yes, the floor too). In a final act of unity and celebration, Rend Collective joined him back on stage for a massive rendition of “10,000 Reasons”.
While it was a slick, professional event the overall impression I was left with was one of humility and inclusiveness. That was the heart behind the tour – and it certainly achieved that.
Tim explains: “As I travel around the UK it seems so much that at this time there is a greater than ever focus on the church uniting, and it is exciting for me that the BigChurchDayOut can play its part in demonstrating this.”
Worshipping with other believers from a host of different churches certainly was uplifting and refreshing – even if it was actually rather a late night out! 😉