Elton John came to our church last Sunday night. It was an amazing experience to have the great singer, pianist and composer be with us for an evening. Although I should say, he wasn’t actually physically in the building. Let me explain.
As our music team were setting up some rickety old speakers, the tech crew next door was literally shaking the ground with the bass from their system.
Our church meets in the multipurpose auditorium / basketball court of a local high school in the city of Newcastle. The school is within a block of McDonald Jones Stadium: home of the NRL’s Knights, the A-League’s Jets, and, for this particular Sunday night, Elton John’s Yellow Brick Road tour. As our music team and tech volunteers were setting up some rickety old speakers, the tech crew next door was literally shaking the ground with the bass from their system. As our congregation of 150 or so made their way past closed streets to the venue, 30,000 fans were assembling in the stadium.
The night began, and as our senior pastor got up to preach on the supremacy of Jesus Christ from Ephesians 1, Elton John himself joined our gathering. His beautiful music and singing swept through the doors and windows of our dusty school hall and more or less overwhelmed the proclamation of God’s word. Our preacher, our sound team and our congregation did the best they could, but Elton’s presence was unavoidable. He was truly with us that night.
As I reflected on this event over the following days, it occurred to me that Elton’s visit was rich in symbolism. On this one night, we saw the apparent smallness of God’s kingdom compared to the great events of the world. We saw how so many people in our city would rather be entertained than fed spiritual truth from God’s word. And as we sat there not just with FOMO but with YAMO (You Are Missing Out), we experienced the weakness and foolishness of the gospel.
That could have left me a bit depressed but actually the opposite occurred. My mind went to all parts of the Bible that spoke into a situation like this. For example, Jesus has told us that the kingdom of God begins small like a mustard seed, “Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.” (Mark 4:32)
I was also reminded of people’s need to be saved. Paul would not have minded missing out on a concert. His priority was the salvation of others: “For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved” (1 Cor 10:33). His heart would have been yearning for the lost in our city.
And Paul’s words earlier in 1 Corinthians 1 rang true: “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” (1 Cor 1:25). The message of the cross that was being preached in a rented venue may be weak and foolish in the eyes of the world but it really is God’s strength and power. Elton and his audiences will come and go but the gospel remains truth, salvation and eternal life.
So really, despite the difficult night for our church, Elton’s visit was a moment of clarity. Besides, in the voice of the Lord, Christians have the best sound system ever:
The voice of the Lord is above the waters.
The God of glory thunders—
the Lord, above the vast water,
the voice of the Lord in power,
the voice of the Lord in splendor.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord shatters the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
and Sirion, like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord flashes flames of fire.
The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth
and strips the woodlands bare.
In his temple all cry, “Glory!”