Originally published in Christian Today
Jesus Culture is “a ministry to ignite revival in the nations of the earth”, according to its Twitter bio. This worship-led revival movement which sprung out of Bethel Church, Redding has a global mandate and a global influence. The band, led by Kim Walker-Smith and Chris Quilala – both Christian household-names in their own rights – sells out stadiums.
Despite this, its leader Banning Liebscher has flown to the UK to host a number of ‘Reformation Sessions’ for an audience of 50. Yesterday’s was just outside Ebsfleet in Kent.
It would be easy to assume that this Christian sub-culture ‘celebrity’ would fall into the trappings of fame, but Banning is determined not to.
“We were made to be in relationship with God, and we find our satisfaction and fulfilment are shaped at a deep level in the presence of God. Our priorities get rearranged. And then, I think the Bible is very clear that when you were born again, you were born again into a family,” Banning told Christian Today, speaking after the conference.
“I don’t move forward without covering or community. This way I don’t have to feel I have to hear God on my own, and I have community around me to check that I am not living out of pace with God’s timing for my life.”
On every table in the room was a pile of Banning’s latest book, Rooted – enough that each delegate received a free copy.
The book, which focuses on David’s life, which Banning uses as a motif to explore how we can grow as followers of Jesus in the 21st century.
Banning was emphatic that internal growth was crucial for external flourishing, and that success in the Christian life is not dependent on external markers, but on internal health.
He sees this in a twofold expression of first, intimacy with God – finding the secret place; and second, intimacy with others – living in community.
These might be surprising words coming from the founder of a movement with over 553 000 Twitter followers and a staff team of over 50, but Banning is unrelenting in his pursuit for community.
It is this and getting into the presence of God that he says ensures he remains sober and obedient to God.
Living in community and humility
“There is a level of humility you have to have to stay in community and that is what the Lord is looking for, so that when you come before him, and you see God as he is, there is a natural humility that comes. And, when you get in community, there’s a natural humility that comes.
“It’s always helpful to come home after tour,” he adds. “At home and church, no one cares about how many twitter followers you have.
“If I am insecure and I am looking for people to speak identity to me or security to me or if who I am is wrapped up in what I am doing, it means that I don’t want to be at home with my family, and if I am looking for significance or have this unhealthy ambition, it means that when the Lord’s trying to speak to me, or when community is trying to speak to me, I cannot hear.
“It is a heart issue,” he continues. “If the Lord asks you to speak to 10 000 people or if he asks you to speak to ten, do you come with the same heart, do you come with the same passion, do you come with the same gratitude?”
Worldly measuring of life
The world asks us to measure our life and its success by external measurements – by achievements and by failures – and to find our identity in them.
“We have to redefine success,” he says.
“If you can define success properly – which is just the desire to be faithful and obedient – not to fill big stadiums, sell lots of books or have a big name for yourself, then if He asks me to be faithful and obedient somewhere unknown, I’ll go and be faithful and obedient somewhere unknown.”
This shifts identity from the external to the internal, from focus on the fruits to focus on the relationship with God and with others.
“It’s not just you and Jesus. Jesus is the only way to salvation, but once you go through that door, he’s like welcome to the big old family,” says Banning.
“He is all you need for salvation, but it’s never just you and him in life. Jesus teaches that it matters how we treat people – you can’t hate a brother and say you love me, it doesn’t work like that. He constantly is saying that your relationship with other people matters in this relationship with me.”
This mind set of community with God and with others will radically impact the way we see church. We are living in a consumerist culture, and there is a danger that that consumerism can infiltrate our approach to church.
Church is a family
“Church is a family, not a business; it is a house, not a restaurant,” he says.
“If I approach my house like a restaurant, it is problematic. You don’t enter your house, sit down at your table and get upset that nobody brought you water in the first five minutes. You go to the tap and you get the water.
“I don’t go to a restaurant and think, what can I do to help. I’m bringing my money and you’re doing it. When I come home I do though – I am engaging at home helping take out the trash.”
And this is the way we need to start thinking about church, says Banning.
“We need to stop thinking of Church as a business, and reform our thoughts of it as a family.”
Banning Liebscher’s book Rooted, which explores the life of King David in relation to God, community and service, is available now.