The idea for Paper Lanterns International was born in 2011 when founder, Jason Bradley, read Ephesians 5:27 (“That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish”) and wondered how The Church can be one spotless bride, without wrinkle, when it is fractured into so many pieces. He began to host regular worship events called “Come… Find Sanctuary” that were aimed to bring together Christians of many different denominations to worship God, pray with each other, and organize around their common talents to serve their community.
We believe that worship is not a bunch of songs we sing to God on a Sunday morning or listen to as background music while we’re busy doing other things. Worship is a lifestyle of obedience to God. It takes shape in our songs, prayer, and devoting our time in scripture. It is also defined by the way we live our lives. Are we serving Him by serving others? Do we treat each other with love and kindness? Have we devoted our lives to His purpose, rather than pursuing the everyday things of this life that will pass away with us?
2 Timothy 2:4 says: “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” Simply stated, to please God, we must not get bogged down in the daily minutia of life, so that we might fully serve Him. While soccer, dance, our favorite books and TV shows might not be bad in and of themselves, they often get in the way of living a life of devotion to Christ and working to see His Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven.
How do we get to a place where The Church pursues God with reckless abandon… where we are willing to lose our lives to find them? We believe that only the unifying presence of the Holy Spirit can move people to do the illogical. By going deeper in worship (through song) we can cultivate lives of worship. As we surrender to God, the Holy Spirit can convict us of the need to change our lives. We also believe that through going deeper in worship, the Holy Spirit reveals the mysteries of scripture to us, so that many of the issues that keep denominations from working together can be alleviated.
Jason was a part of a worship band in Duluth, MN called Pure Heart that was successful in gathering worshipers from many different denominations together to celebrate the thing that unified them all: Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection. We know that it can be done elsewhere.
Why is that important? The Israelites were God’s chosen people, and decided to pursue their own passions in place of God’s. God responds in Amos 5:21, “I hate all your show and pretense–the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies”. Could that ever happen in this country? Absolutely, but it doesn’t have to. All it takes is for us to turn back to Him. It’s not our going to church or singing songs that please Him, but our lives of devotion sold out to Him.
We get there by going deeper in worship. That is our mission here at PLI. We aspire to teach others to go deeper in worship, praising God for what we know of Him, and push in to see what He might say in response. It is through these encounters that we receive truth that can change our lives to be more in line with His plans for us.
Jason Bradley is a worship leader at Park Assembly of God in St. Louis Park, MN. He also leads “Come… Find Sanctuary” multi-denominational worship services, and teaches worship through lessons and seminars.