The vision of Park was:
"To be a biblical community where the Gospel of Jesus Christ transforms lives, renews the city, and impacts the world. As part of seeing the city renewed, we believe God has called Park to see 1% of the city of Chicago (29,000 people) walk across the line of faith and become assimilated into biblical communities."
That vision made quite an impression on me since I grew up in a suburban church and also didn't understand what it meant to "walk across the line of faith." I was so excited to be living in the city, it excited me even more that I was part of a church's vision was about renewing the city and wanting to see 1% of Chicago walk across the line of faith. After about 2 years of attending Park, they introduced a new song during worship, "God of this City." It was one of the most powerful songs I had ever heard. It really applied to what Park believed!
In June 2008, after 20 years in the making, the new building for Park had finally been built, so though I was now attending Willow Creek with Jason every week, I wanted to attend Parks first service in their new building since I felt like I had been a very very small part of that journey. At the service they played worship songs and had their sermon but nothing really stood out like when the worship team played it's final song, "God of this City." As they began the song, they opened the curtains to the outside...which faces the east, viewing Cabrini Green with the projects up close and the high rises of the Gold Coast in the distance. What a powerful song! And what a powerful God we have!
I have since seen Chris Tomlin in concert who explained the history of this song which was originally written by the Irish band, Blue Tree. This is how Aaron Boyd from Blue Tree explains the history:
Wow, right? I have heard this song so many times since the first time I learned the song. I have it on my running playlist and heard it today as I was walking after a run and decided to just listen to the words and worship God as I walked. I looked to my left and there was a very small cross above a church so I snapped a picture to remember that moment. Sadly, I can't see the cross but I know every time I walk by that cross will stand out more than any others! This song charges me up and excites me to see what God has in mind for the city which I love so much!
“There’s a couple from Carrickfergus, Ian and Leslie, and they moved out to Thailand to a place called Pattaya. We got asked to go and be part of an event called Pattaya Praise. Pattaya is a seaside town/resort place, and physically, it looks to be like the darkest place you’ll ever go to. And spiritually, it is THE darkest place we have ever been to. You just feel the evil. You just feel the enemy all over that place. It’s a very small place. . . But in that small area in Thailand, there are 30,000 prostitutes and that figure excludes kids and excludes anything that’s outside of the range of, say 18-30, and who are female. . .
Part of what we were asked to do was to go out and be part of an event which runs for four or five days. It had things like 24/7 worship and prayer and social action going on helping the people who clean the streets every morning. We played in a school and ministered in an orphanage and tried to get a heart for that city. As a band we were getting cold feet because we had four days in Bangkok to start, and in those four days it was great. We’d be quite hyperactive, and it was flat-out, four days; not an hour was lost to sleep in those four days. On the Sunday we managed to play in one church and it was brilliant, but we wanted more. And then when we got to Pattaya . . . we said, ‘If you can get us anywhere else to play, anywhere, we want to play. We just want to do what we do in the middle of somewhere and just go head-on into it.”
“There was a bar called The Climax Bar – on a street that’s about 10 metres wide, it’s a kilometre long and it’s filled with everything you can physically imagine. And I promise you, as a red-blooded male, to keep your head in the right place you’ve got to look down at the ground and walk down that street and pray because it is just so in your face. People hit you with menus about everything, flashing lights, just everything you can imagine goes on in that place. You see kids as young as eight, nine, 10, just selling themselves, you know?! You see 60-year-old guys walking down the street with two 13 or 14-year-old girls. Forget about the Christian thing, you just get raging! You properly get raging when you see that happening, you know?!”
. . . We got the chance to play in this bar, a two-hour worship set in this bar. I don’t think the people in the bar spoke a word of English but we basically got to go in. The deal was that we play and we bring a following of people with us; so we’re there, set up, really good gear! So we all set up and there was like 20 Christians all standing in front of us, and the deal was we play, they buy lots of drinks, alright? I don’t think the place has ever sold so much Coke in its whole life in one night!
And we got to play for two hours. And just the way the band set up, we like using loops, and at one point I just started singing out. I started singing “Greater Things”, something along those lines, almost prophesying over the city. And without going into the band dynamics, slowly this groove emerged from this thing. And long story short; we walked out of that Climax Bar with pretty much a nailed song, as strange as that sounds. Then we were on the way home.
We were all. . .it was that tumbleweed silence, you know? It was like, ‘What actually just happened in that time?!’ It was one of the most powerful worship experiences we’ve ever had. I actually remember looking out, and you’re looking down a wee alleyway, into the street, and it was just 50 or 60 probably British tourists and they’re just sitting there listening going, ‘What is this all about?’ Coming from The Climax Bar which is pretty much a strip club. Just, here we are singing about Jesus in the middle of this. . . It was one of the most random experiences but it was a God thing, God was there.” (click here for more)
If you haven't heard this song, click here, close your eyes and listen.