I have the privilege of speaking at some of the largest churches in the United States.
Because the services are televised worldwide and the messages have mass exposures, there are sometimes threats from unstable individuals. When I preach in these churches, I must follow their protocols.
One megachurch where I preach has a bodyguard who comes and picks me up from my hotel. He drives around to the back of the church, and I have to wait for him to open my door.
He then whisks me into a small hallway that takes me up to the Green Room, where I remain until it’s time for me to walk out onto the platform. The bodyguard is always close, and in between the services, he clears out a nearby restroom and locks it down so I can use it.
During the invitation time as I stand down front, the bodyguard stands next to me in case someone tries to harm me. When the invitation ends, once again, I am whisked away, back into the car and to the airport.
This past weekend, I was teaching a Saturday conference at one of these churches. This time, I didn’t have a bodyguard but a handler. It was this person’s paid job to make sure I stood on the right mark, my microphone was working and my collar was turned down. He also managed the countdown clock during each session and was instructed to get me my favorite drink from Starbucks.
At the end of Session 2, he showed up with a Chai Tea Latte. Another one of his jobs was to make sure I knew the location of the Green Room. If I wanted to get away from the people and have a little time to myself, I could escape to this room.
Having grown up in a small country church, this all seems very strange. But I understand why they do what they do.
My style of ministry is much different. I have tried to base it upon Jesus’ ministry; there was no one better at engaging people from all walks of life than He was.
In His ministry, He engaged with the military elite and the homeless; He engaged with the wealthy and the broken, and He engaged with the prostitutes and the physicians. If you are a part of “God so loved the world,” Jesus wants to engage with you.
For last weekend’s conference, I got there early. As the people came in, one by one, I met them and thanked them for giving up their precious time to come. I asked about their families and the needs in their lives. I moved from table to table, asking their names and talking more about their families.
By the time the conference started, I felt like I knew them and could call many of them by their names. And while I was teaching, I continued engaging them from the stage.
As our time together drew to a close, I told them if they had a prayer need for their family to just raise their hand, and I would come to them to pray with them. One by one, these families raised their hands, and I moved about, praying for them.
When the conference was over, I engaged them as they left, asking them if and in what way had I helped them. You can’t do Jesus’ ministry without engaging in the lives of people.
I often wonder if Jesus had a Green Room. I don’t think so. He had something better: a lonely place. When Jesus needed to get away from the crowds and the pressures of a demanding world, He went to a lonely place to pray. This is recorded in Luke 5:16, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
The public ministry of Jesus was directly related to His private prayer life. He understood what the psalmist said: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps.46:10a).
It is in this lonely place where the world grows dim, and you can hear the voice of God most clearly. It is a place where confusions are chased away and clarity comes to your heart and mind. It is a place where power is given to face the challenges of life. Jesus knew the lonely place was the empowering place to engage the world.
When I come home, I am drained from engaging in the messy places of people’s lives. Before I go out again, like Jesus, I need to make sure I am refueled in the same place He was.
If you need me, you can find me—not in the Green Room, but in the lonely place.