You'll see a lot of footage of us from Hillsong UNITED on stage, and in the studio, in the new movie HILLSONG-LET HOPE RISE. We are, after all, worship leaders, and the movie is what some are calling Hollywood's first-ever theatrical worship experience.
But for me, and I think I can speak for the rest of the United crew, too, nothing you'll see in cinemas captures the heart of Hillsong's mission more than the scene in which we visit an impoverished slum in the Philippines as part of the ministry work our church does with Compassion International.
Don't get me wrong: It is an honor and privilege to lead others into the presence of God through the incredible gift of music. I pinch myself that I get to be a part of UNITED; serving God and building His church is dream that has been in my heart from a really young age. It's beyond humbling to see the reaction of the crowds we get to play for, no matter where in the world we are playing. God has given us a pretty big platform through our songs - and we do not take it for granted and pray we never will!
As great as the big corporate worship gatherings are, there is also a very special and powerful connection that comes from the work we do in our Compassion cities around the world. We have a saying that we can't do everything, but we must do something. It's really confronting to look into the face of a child in such desperate circumstances but also realize that it doesn't take much to make a positive difference in their lives.
More than 50,000 boys and girls in need have been sponsored through Hillsong's partnership with Compassion - my wife Lauren and I have been sponsoring kids since before we met, and it's been a joy to teach our children the power of child sponsorship as they also sponsor kids their own age (with a little help from us, of course). When we as UNITED get to visit some of those children as we tour the world, we find indescribable joy in just getting to share life with them. Playing a game of basketball or soccer, dancing or singing together, just having a conversation and swapping laughs and smiles, cuts right to the essence of what the Bible commands in Proverbs 31: 8-9: "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy."
One of the better definitions of poverty I've heard is that it's the absence of choice. We all have choice in our lives in this affluent world, but children in poverty don't have a choice. So the result of ministry work like that we do with Compassion is that a remarkable number of life-changing opportunities are given to children in need. They receive the gift of choices.
All of us have a choice, too, as to how we'll follow Jesus' exhortation to care for "the least of these." One of the biggest revelations I have had, which has really been foundational to everything I have done in life and especially on the journey of being Part of UNITED, is that God is far more interested in our availability than He is in our ability. There is much freedom when you realize that it doesn't matter if you think you have a lot of gifting and ability or none at all, because God is looking for us to come to Him just as we are to be the change in others' lives.
I don't have to be the world's greatest singer to be a worship leader; and you don't have to be the finest fill-in-the-blank to change the lives of others through serving in the ministry He has called you to. When we show up, He shows up - and incredible things happen through us and to us.
That's been our goal since Day 1 with UNITED. It's our hope with LET HOPE RISE when it opens in theaters across America on Sept. 16. And it's our prayer for you as our brothers and sisters in Christ as you pursue your ministry calling.