Worship breaks out on an airplane drawing both praise and backlash

A video posted by Pastor Jack Jensz Jr. of his ministry team worshiping aboard an airplane in mid-flight has amassed over 35 million views online — but the reason they were on the plane in the first place is the real star of the show.

The clip posted on April 6 of people from Kingdom Realm Ministries and other churches worldwide singing “How Great Is Our God” during a commercial flight out of Poland gained traction after Muslim U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., posted the clip on her Twitter page Saturday. She included the caption, “I think my family and I should have a prayer session next time I am on a plane.” 

Her comments were criticized by some Republican politicians, such as Vernon Jones, a former Democrat who is running to represent Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives, who suggested Omar’s comments were hateful toward Christians. 

Others criticized the worshippers, claiming the event was invasive and forced everyone else on board to listen to music praising God against their will.

Jensz said the impromptu worship moment was not a part of “a political agenda at all.” 

“I didn’t post it to stir anything up,” the Australian-born pastor shared in an interview with The Christian Post. “It was actually just a post to share with our friends and encourage our friends that have been following our journey.” 

“When she posted that, I just looked at it and I didn’t really give it too much thought. I didn’t really enter into any political debate,” he continued. “For us, we just came to share the love of God, we came just to reveal to people that Jesus loves them so much, and that’s our focus. Our focus wasn’t a political agenda at all.”

The minister captioned the video, “We are taking this flight over for Jesus!”

The video showed a guitar player leading a group of people in worship to the popular Chris Tomlin song. Many passengers joined in and filmed the event that lasted a few minutes as others sat in silence.

The song came on the heels of Jensz and his team being spiritually high because of what they saw God do while serving at the Ukrainian border. He said the plane ride came after their time in Ukraine, and it was their way of keeping hope going.

“We were with our team. We’re flying away from Ukraine to another place to have a meeting. We had 10 members of our team on the plane, and we’ve been worshiping and praying for people all over the place,” he explained. “We decided, ‘How awesome would it be if we could just bless these people with a song and bring hope and joy to this flight as so many people are in such a devastating place in pain and suffering?'” 

They approached the air host and shared what they were doing in Ukraine and asked permission to sing worship music in an attempt to keep morale high even while in the air. Jensz said they would not have done the video if they weren’t granted permission because they “believe in honor, we believe in respecting authority.”

After asking the air host if they could sing the song, Jensz said, “she took a step back, and she was so surprised and so happy.”

“She’s like, ‘Oh, wow, really? This would be so beautiful.’ So she went to the pilot and asked the pilot, the pilot was in agreement, and everyone was in agreement,” he stated. “Then she jumped on the intercom and goes, ‘Hey, passengers, we have guests from all around the world who have been serving in Ukraine and helping the beautiful Ukrainian refugees, and they want to sing one song, just to bring joy and hope to you in this time.’”

“As she announced that, everyone clapped, a bunch of smiles on the plane, and we stood up to our feet with our team and we sang ‘How great is our God,’ which is a beautiful song,” Jensz continued.

“As we sang it, we saw people smiling, some people even crying, they were touched. We had people filming on their phones. It was a real joyful moment on the plane. Then we shared with them. We said, ‘Hey, this might be the most interesting plane flight that you’ve ever been on in your life. But we’re here to bring joy and happiness and just to tell you, God loves you and He’s with you.’”

Jensz said many Ukrainian refugees were on that flight, and it’s why they felt compelled to do what they did.

“No one said anything negative, no one stood up [against it], everyone was there enjoying,” he shared. “It was just a beautiful time, and it seemed like everyone was truly blessed.”  

After the clip went viral, it created an uproar online. People had varying opinions about what took place.

For Jensz and his team, however, it was another miraculous ministry opportunity for them as they saw God move in a significant way during their entire trip. 

The founder and president of the Philadelphia-based Kingdom Realm Ministries testified of what God did leading up to that worshipful moment that has caught the world’s attention. 

“Ukraine is in the midst of a great war, and this is devastating to see. So on the second day of the war, our teams from all over the world were like, ‘Hey, let’s go to the Ukrainian border and minister to the people, love the people and help the people,” Jensz recalled.

He said his ministry affiliates came from all over the world to do “four different types of ministries.”

“The first thing that we did is we did a border ministry, where we went to the Ukrainian border, and we came with supplies, humanitarian aid, we came with medical supplies, food, blankets, you name it. Just helping the immediate needs of these beautiful refugees,” he said. 

The stories he heard were heartbreaking. He recalled seeing people waiting in line to cross the border for three or four days by car. Others were standing in line waiting to get in for hours upon hours.

He even heard reports of refugees suffering from frostbite because they were standing so long in the cold. 

“I’ve never seen anything like this! Walking down the lines, you have people throwing their children at you saying, ‘Please take them,’ and they’re just filled with great fear,” he described. “These people have driven days to get to the border. These people are leaving war-torn areas where they’ve even seen their houses bombed. They’ve had to send their sons and fathers back in to fight the war, and so it’s just so devastating.”

Jensz said it is essential for churches to pray, but he and his team felt called not only to pray but to action.

He shared how they went to refugee centers to pray with various refugees and help them get connected with family members throughout Europe. Jensz credited the ministry Awakening Europe for helping to coordinate everything for his team during their time in the region.

“It’s amazing because when you hand humanitarian aid to these beautiful people, they say thank you, they’re so kind and so happy that we’re there to help from all around the world,” Jensz noted. “But when you sit and you tell them, ‘Hey, can I just share with you that God loves you so much. Even though you’re going through this, know that Jesus is with you.’ They begin to just melt, they cry, they get so touched.”

Ukraine is known as a predominantly Christian nation. A 2018 survey conducted by the Razumkov Centre think tank found that 71.7% of the population declared themselves believers.

The pastor said that telling the people that God loved them meant “the world to them.” 

“So it’s not pushing religion down their throat at all. It’s actually something that’s so dear to their heart, and it moves them,” he clarified. 

“We also went to the train stations, where all these refugees are jumping on trains to go throughout Europe to find family members. We were there with humanitarian aid, with food, we gave candy to the kids, make the kids smile and have joy in the midst of this crazy war. Then we just share the beautiful Gospel,” Jensz continued.

“We are not ashamed of the Gospel. The Gospel has the power to save and transform.”

Jensz saw the transformative power of Jesus Christ in his own life.

He was brought up in an abusive home and saw God intervene by changing his mother’s life and his own life, setting them on a course of hope and fulfillment. 

“We believe that Jesus is the answer. Obviously, we don’t want to shove that down their throat. We wait for the opportunity for God to open it up. But these people were so open to receiving the good news of God,” Jensz assured.

“We actually saw healings and miracles. Multiple people received healing in their bodies, and it was beautiful. It’s like God was kissing them, saying, ‘I’m with you and I’m for you and I love you’ by healing their body. It was incredible!”

While their worship video has gone viral, Jensz wants all the attention to bring glory to God. 

“From a Christian perspective, I just hope that the Church rises up and realizes that the Gospel is powerful. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. … We have a call to action to love people more, a call to action to serve people more. We have a call to action to share the Good News more. That’s really my heart,” he concluded. 

When asked if worship on a plane should be encouraged in the future, Jensz said he’s been on several plane rides where other beliefs have expressed their faith.

“I’ve been on different flights, and I have friends that have traveled to different countries where there are different religions that are widely spread there. I’ve been on flights where you have a Muslim or Islamic person come up, and they’ll share and they’ll pray. I’ve been on flights where they pray before we take off, even had Jewish people that will stand up and they’ll pray,” he described. 

“It happens quite often. I think that we just shook the ground a little bit because it was a worship song. So it’s very out there in that sense. But I think that if you ask for permission and it’s granted and what you have to say is encouraging and uplifting and brings hope and light, sure! … We live in a beautiful, free country, and we’re free to express what we believe and what we stand firm on in our heart and if that’s bringing life.”

The pastor believes the criticism he and his team have received is what’s expected as a follower of Christ.

“They persecuted Jesus and persecuted the disciples. This is just what we laid our life down for. This is the cost,” Jensz maintained.