Thursday, January 03, 2008

Raising up a Testimony

Angela and the girls and I spent five days between Christmas and New Years being tourists in New York City. We stayed in a loaned apartment in midtown Manhattan, walked the streets and rode the subways and hailed the cabs, saw many of the sights, attended a play, ate bagels in the morning and ethnic dishes during the day and delicious meals at night, and generally just took in the Big Apple. It was an awesome family experience.

One of the highlights for me was attending the Sunday morning worship service at the Times Square Church ( had come out of the Gershwin theatre on Saturday afternoon after seeing “Wicked” and there the church building was, right across the street on Broadway and 51st, in a renovated theatre with a huge sign that stood out in a wonderful way. The church was planted in 1987 when David Wilkerson, who had spent the 1950’s and 1960’s ministering to young drug addicts and gang members, and whose book, The Cross and the Switchblade, has sold over 50 million copies, heard a call from God. He describes it thus:

“In 1986, while walking down 42nd Street at midnight, my heart broke over what I saw. Times Square was populated mainly by prostitutes and pimps, runaways, drug addicts and hustlers, along with live peep shows and X-rated movie houses. I cried out for God to do something—anything—to help these physically destitute and spiritually dead people. I saw 9-, 10- and 11-year-old kids bombed on crack cocaine. I walked down 42nd Street and they were selling crack. Len Bias, the famous basketball player, had just died of a crack overdose, and the pusher was yelling, ‘Hey, I’ve got the stuff that killed Len.’ I wept and prayed, ‘God, you’ve got to raise up a testimony in this hellish place…’ The answer was not what I wanted to hear: ‘Well, you know the city. You’ve been here. You do it.’”

Today over 8,000 people worship weekly at Times Square Church, representing over 100 nationalities, with outreach ministries to
“the fatherless, the widows, the oppressed, the destitute, the addicted and the poor,” and annual mission trips to dozens of countries. I arrived at 9:55 for the 10:00 worship service; the auditorium was already packed and overflowing. Three annex rooms with digital screens to simulcast the service were also packed with at least a thousand more people. There was singing and praise for about fifty minutes, a time to give offerings, then announcements. The preacher was only beginning his sermon at 11:10 when I had to leave to make our afternoon flight. I found it tremendously inspiring to worship side-by-side with people of so many enthnicities, socio-economic levels, ages, and dialects. I marveled at the power of the Holy Spirit to touch so many lives in the heart of Manhattan and gather such a diverse group of people into the Body of Christ.

Friends, the church is called to be a mission center to a lost and hurting world, and we are partners with the Holy Spirit in the adventure. That’s true in northwest Houston every bit as much as it is in New York City. In the words of one African evangelist, let’s “be done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap living, and dwarfed goals.” Let’s raise up a testimony together!


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