While I am not a Philadelphia Eagles fan, I am impressed with the quarterback who led them to a super bowl championship last year, Carson Wentz.
Carson is a strong Christian and he was instrumental in leading many of his players to Christ. Last year there were several stories of players being baptized in hotel pools and training room tubs. Carson also leads a mission and ministry called, Audience of One or AO1.
The AO1 Foundation was founded in 2017 with the goal of uplifting individuals and communities around the world by demonstrating God’s love for His people. They do this through sports and outdoor adventures as well as distributing free food to those who are hungry. While he plays football in front of millions of people during the season, Carson says he really lives his life for God alone, an audience of one.
I first heard the phrase, audience of one, from my sister over 10 years ago. She was a youth leader at a church in Lancaster and every few years that church sent out their youth choir on a tour. It was always a highlight for the students and through the years they had not only performed at nursing home and churches, but one year they were featured on TV. The director was in her last year of leading the choir and felt a calling to do a tour and concert for an Audience of One. With my sister’s help, they found an amazing spot along the Blue Ridge Parkway where they could pull off, set up all their sound equipment, and perform a concert for God alone.
It was a pretty radical idea. There could be no spectators for the concert, so all chaperones had to sing in the choir and even the bus driver who took them there had to agree to stay on the bus. Everyone in the choir had to commit to not only being at all the rehearsals but to also doing a yearlong devotional to prepare their hearts and lives for that day. Some parents objected to this unique tour because it just didn’t seem like the right thing to do, and some of the students struggled to understand the concept. They said it didn’t seem right to put in all that work and then have no one hear them. Those parents and students kind of missed the concept.
When it came time for the tour, nothing seemed to go as planned. They didn’t know there would be a fee for taking a bus on the Blue Ridge parkway, so the students had to decide if their concert was worth chipping in extra money. They took up a voluntary collection among themselves and got more than what they needed to pay the fee. The day of the concert arrived and it was so foggy that they couldn’t see anything on the drive or at the location they had picked. Not only couldn’t they see more than a few feet in front of them, but when they got off the bus they found the ground to be so wet that they worried about setting up all the electrical equipment. Everyone was soaked from the knees down as they set up, but they got ready and began to sing.
During the concert a few deer walked through the adjacent field. They didn’t seem fazed by all that was going on and would often turn their heads to listen to the music. Then some turkeys arrived and then the sun broke through the clouds. Their Audience of One had shown up and poured out his blessing upon them. My sister said she had never experienced anything like that in her life, and hasn’t since. She said there was a very clear presence of God that moved among them. She said there was a heaviness in the air, a spirit that moved her to tears and others to their knees, and they sang like they had never sung before. As my sister shared the story with me again a few weeks ago, she spoke with such a profound sense of awe that I knew it had been a very moving and truly holy experience.
As we sit at the end of 2018 and look to begin a new year, I ask myself if I can live 2019 for an Audience of One. In this coming year can I, like Carson Wentz, make my motto, Colossians 3:17. Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus. Do it all for an Audience of One. Can I live my life this way and experience the awe and blessing of God’s presence throughout the year.
To live for an audience of one means that I have to stop thinking about what is good for me and how to make myself look better in the eyes of others and how I can get ahead in this world and just focus on living for and pleasing God. It means getting up every morning and dedicating the day, the schedule, the pain and problems, the hopes and dreams of my life to God. It means going to bed at night thanking God for everything that has happened and asking God to shape the day to come. It means setting Godly priorities for my life and committing my family to God, my job to God, my free time to God, my rest and my reflection to God. It means truly living for God alone. An Audience of One.
There are two people we find in the New Testament who lived their lives this way, Simeon and Anna. Both of these people had lived most of their lives in and around the Temple in Jerusalem. In fact, in Luke 2:37 it says that Anna never left the temple but worshiped night and day. Both of them were living their lives for the same thing, they were waiting for the Messiah. They had been living for God alone, an audience of one, and they had been waiting for the Messiah to appear. And then one day, without warning, Jesus arrives in the arms of his mother, Mary. Luke 2:22, 25-32
Simeon had been told he would not die until he saw the Messiah and he had been living for that moment all his life. He was living for an audience of one, and then it was as if the clouds parted and that One showed up. At the very moment Simeon is praising God for the gift of the Messiah, Anna arrives. Luke 2:38. For 60 years Anna had lived in the Temple worshipping God, living for an audience of one, waiting for that One to appear and then on this day, at this moment, God in the flesh arrives, and she knows that her faith has been fulfilled, the redemption of Israel had come in Jesus. Her Audience of One appeared.
On that day, Simeon and Anna literally welcomed their audience of one – Jesus – into their lives, but they only had that experience because they had spent a lifetime living for God alone, and we learn from them some of what it means for us to live for an audience of one. The first thing we learn is that living for God alone means waiting. Luke 2:25.
Simeon had been waiting for the consolation of Israel. He had been waiting for the Messiah to come and save God’s people. Waiting means patiently sitting and watching. It means preparing and persevering. It means not giving up when things don’t happen right away but being willing to keep going in faith even when we don’t see anything happen. The picture that always comes to my mind when I think of someone waiting well is my mom.
Throughout high school, my mom did a lot of waiting. She waited for me after youth group because I would always hang around and talk to my friends after it was over. She would wait for me at piano lessons and tuba lessons, quietly sitting in the car reading, knitting or grading papers. She waited for me at band practice, choir rehearsals, youth retreats, and more events than I can remember. She waited with patience and love, being willing to place my needs, my wants, and my life before her own. This is how we are to wait for God. Patiently, quietly, and faithfully putting God’s life and will before our own.
Waiting is not passive, however, it needs to be active. Waiting for God means that we prepare our lives by doing all we can to grow closer to God. Simeon didn’t just go to the Temple and hang out. He would have studied God’s word, shared his faith by teaching and preaching, and he would have observed all that was going on around him in order to see the movement of God. Waiting is not passive, it is active. It is a time of preparation and growth. Can we make 2019 a year of active waiting and commit to study, spiritual growth, prayer, and reflection?
I want to invite you to live of an Audience of One and wait every day by committing to what I am calling a 5X5. 5 days of reading and 5 minutes of prayer. We have included a 5 day reading plan that will lead you through the entire Bible in 2019, and while it only requires you to read 5 days a week, which can be a helpful schedule, I want to challenge us to pray for 5 minutes every day. The prayer can be silent, reflective, the reading of God’s word, asking for help, praying for others, or praying for the world, but can we pray for 5 minutes every day. This practice is one way we can train ourselves to live for an Audience of One and wait on God.
The second thing we see in Simeon is that he was full of the Holy Spirit. In Luke 2 it says that the Holy Spirit was upon him, that the Holy Spirit spoke to him, and that the Holy Spirit moved him. Living for an audience of one means asking God to fill us with his Holy Spirit. Living for God alone is not easy. When we commit to this way of life we will begin to find that many things will start to try and pull us away, so the only way for us to be faithful and follow through is if the Holy Spirit helps us and leads us.
Now here is what is amazing, for the Holy Spirit to rest upon us, fill us up, speak to us, and move us through our day, all we have to do is ask – Luke 11:11-13. If we ask for the Holy Spirit to fill us and guide us, God will provide. Part of our 5 minutes of prayer should be a simple request for God to send his Holy Spirit into our lives.
The last thing we learn from Simeon and Anna about living for an Audience of One is that we need to commit ourselves to worship. Anna worshipped God day and night. She was committed to worship. She committed herself to giving thanks and praising God and lifting up her needs and the needs of others. She focused on God all through her day and she made worship a priority.
Can we make worship a priority in 2019? Studies show that most people who attend church regularly do so less than twice a month. While this is a good place to start, this is not what it looks like to live for an Audience of One. While corporate worship with God’s people might not always be possible with our schedules, can we make it more of a priority?
Can we commit to not just being here, but maybe stepping out to serve and give while we are here? From child care, to teaching, to greeting inside and outside, to running sound and multi-media, and to sharing our gifts of music and art, the talents and service of God’s people are needed to make weekly worship happen. How can your commitment to live for an Audience of One shape your commitment and involvement in worship? Like the trip my sister took where there could be no spectators, worship really is not a spectator sport. We all need to be actively engaged and involved. If you want to commit to serving in worship in some way during 2019, just take out the information card in the pews and let us know!
While living each day for an Audience of One will involve so much more, as it will touch every thought, word, decision, and action, this is a great place to start.
• Can we wait for God each day and listen for God to speak through his word?
• Can we ask God each day to guide us by his Holy Spirit?
• Can we make worship in 2019 a priority and give our gifts of time, talent, and service to the worship life of the church?
If we do this, God will show up in our lives in very real ways and fill us with the power of his presence.
Audience of One
1. As you look back over 2018, what audience have you been living for? If you were to live for an Audience of One – God – what would it look like:
• at home
• at work
• with your use of time
• with your use of money
2. What did living for God alone look like for Simeon and Anna? Read Luke 2:22-40.
3. Memorize Colossians 3:17
Whatever you do, whether in word or deed,
do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.
4. Wait on God.
• Commit to the 5X5 Plan in 2019.
5. Ask God for the Holy Spirit to fill you and guide you.
Almighty God, you have promised to those who ask that you will give the gift of the Holy Spirit. Give me the gift of your Holy Spirit this day so that I may hear your voice, move according to your will, and find the courage to do all things for your glory. For it is in Jesus name I pray. AMEN
6. Make worship a priority in 2019.
• Offer the gift of your time and talent to the worship life of Faith Church.
• Fill out an information card in the pew, or contact the church at firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.