Parklife 2012Posted: June 19, 2012
For the last three years I have been involved in a project called Parklife.
The idea is really simple. Put up a big tent in the middle of a Southampton city-centre park, invite people of all ages and backgrounds to come along and show them that God is real, alive and loves them.
The concept really boils down to #churchinthepark. Culture, and in turn the media have moved from a default position of openness to the Christian message to skepticism. Our job as Christians is not to just preach, but actively demonstrate through real down-to-earth actions that God cares and his message really is good and really is for everyone.
One of my favourite stories from this year was a man who came to the event in a wheelchair, was healed and literally left his wheelchair behind in the tent!
Another lady was prayed for depression. She was so overwhelmed by what she believes is total healing that she became a Christian and was baptised today. And who can blame her? If you were on medication every day for years and were healed in an instant after a normal Christian bloke prayed for you, what would you do?
At the centre of the Christian message is the word “gospel” which means good news. Just because some Christians and some churches have given the impression that Christianity is boring and pointless, doesn’t mean that’s true! I’d like to think that most of the people who saw us at Parklife went away understanding that.
When I’ve written about healing before, I’ve been immediately bombarded with messages explaining why healing isn’t true and how I’m either mistaken deluded or simply lying. The trouble is with that is it’s incredibly arrogant to state that you know for a fact that no one has ever been healed of anything supernaturally.
To put it another way, just because you’ve seen some counterfeit diamonds, doesn’t mean there aren’t any real ones in existence in the world today.
Let’s be clear, there are ‘faith healers’ out there. They do it for money, fame and self promotion. Sometimes they will even plant people in the audience who claim to have been healed when they haven’t. I accept these things happen. No religion or community is immune from imposters. They can creep in.
But, in my view, they aren’t too difficult to spot. If the meeting revolves around their charismatic personality, their entourage of security personnel, there’s lots of money around and they have their own TV channel then we have every right to be skeptical. But the best way to spot a faith healer is by looking at their actions. Are they claiming to heal people?
No one at Park Life claimed to be able to heal people. They merely followed the example in the Bible, which goes something like this: God is an all powerful creator > Jesus was God > Jesus healed people > Jesus allowed his disciples and all who believed in him afterwards to heal > Christians today can pray in Jesus name and Jesus will heal.
Here all the attention is directed away from the individual and put on God. It’s all through Jesus power, not our own. God delights in humility. When people recognise they haven’t got it all sorted and trust in Jesus, things happen. And when people recognise they are nothing special, but humbly ask God to work in their lives, he does.
The Centre of the Christian Message
It’s been wonderful to be reminded of the simpleness of the Christian message again. My favourite aspect of this ‘good news’ is that it’s only good for those who haven’t got life figured out! If you think you’re perfect then you probably will find the Christian message irrelevant.
But I’ve never met anyone who really believes they are 100% perfect.
So if you know you’ve not always measured up to your own standards, let alone God’s standards, then the good news is you can find forgiveness, purpose, healing, joy and hope. No wonder the early followers of Jesus called it ‘good news’.
You don’t have to look far to see people searching for fulfillment in other things. Whether it’s living for the weekend or living for your other half or living for the next drink, everyone worships something. Ultimately we won’t find fulfillment. As Jim Carey put it, “I wish everyone could get rich and famous and everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that’s not the answer.”
Finally, I know of no other religion where I can turn up with a Les Paul, whack the Marshall amp up to 11, mess around with some effects pedals, strum a few chords and it be understood and acceptable to God as ‘worship’. Of course the reason for this is true worship comes from the heart, so whether it’s a Les Paul or vuvusella, if you’re doing it for God’s glory and not your own, it’s worship.
It was a pleasure to work with Tim Kendall on preparing many of the songs for the week. Leading the band in singing some of these songs was a new experience for me. I’d like to end by giving a big shout out to them all, they played their hearts out all week. One of the favourite tracks we did was this one:
I think it perfectly captures what we did this week.
All pictures copyright David & Katy Carter [firstname.lastname@example.org], Debs Ford and Joe Kilby [email@example.com].