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The Largest Worship Service We’ve Ever Attended

I’ve been to some large worship services at such places as Willow Creek, the Crystal Cathedral in California, Charles Stanley’s church in Atlanta. But last year, Becky and I attended a worship service that was larger than all of these put together! It was a Hindu festival called Thaipusam in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. How many were in attendance? One million! This festival does take place in other venues, but the celebration in Kuala Lumpur is one of the largest in the world due to the Batu Caves. These are massive limestone caves just outside the city proper. There is a large stairway (272 steps) that ascends up to the caves. The Batu Caves are massive, cavernous, damp caves filled with bats and monkeys . . . and trash . . . and Hindu idols.

Last year, Becky and I led a team of leaders from our church to Malaysia. (We “adopted” the Malay ten years ago as an unreached people group.) On one particular morning, we arrived on public transportation to a sprawling Hindu festival (the festival runs for 24 hours) and immediately plunged into an gigantic crowd of Hindus to make our way up to the caves. Understandably, some on our team were fairly nervous about doing this, but God protected all of us. It’s hard to describe Thaipusam—it’s extremely loud, crowded, energetic, and crazy all at the same time. It’s kind of a cross between the Super Bowl, Woodstock, and a carnival. Vendors stand next to one another, yelling loudly, selling a variety of things—everything from Hindu idols to ice cream to flowers. A number of people at the festival had pierced themselves with skewers or hooks to gain the favor of the Hindu god, Murugan. There is a gigantic statue of Murugan (141 feet tall) at the site of the Batu Caves.

For two hours, we jostled our way through the steamy throngs and ascended the stairway up into the caves. It was hot! I truly believe that a number of people around us were demon-possessed and worshiping demons. Having said that, I reminded our team to be prayerful and to remember that we have the Holy Spirit inside of us, who is far more powerful.

Going to Thaipusam offered a powerful reminder of what any of us could be like outside of Christ. I’ve never been in a worship service of this size—compromised entirely of people worshiping idols and demons. It was haunting and sobering all at the same time. We had a good discussion afterwards, as a team, about the realities of Christ, salvation, and the need to share the Gospel with a lost and dying world. Everyone was glad we had attended. It was a very good thing for our team.

by Jay Childs, Future Senior Pastor