I had mentioned the other day that I had returned to my youth group back in Chelsea to help with a worship service. There were quite a few memories that returned to me while I was there, but one of the memories extended back quite a ways to some of my visits to Somerset Beach Campground.
It was there than I learned what worship looked like. I had been a Christian for a long time, but it wasn’t until I was old enough to get into the youth tent that I ever saw one hand raised in the air. The church I attended at this time just didn’t express themselves in any physical way. And so now to see all of these hands in the air was incredibly odd to me. Why were they doing that?
And then the worship leader that week had everyone in the tent turn around and kneel on their chairs. Perhaps this was the first time I ever engaged expression in my worship. I believe he also had us all raise our hands in the air again, which was another first to me.
I felt a little foolish about it, but there was something freeing about it; powerful, yet odd. I didn’t know what it was, but I felt like I was actually engaging God.
A few years later I found myself back at this tent with one of my best friends. Pastor Jason, who would be my future youth pastor in Chelsea, was leading the worship with his youth band. If I remember correctly, he used a distortion pedal on his acoustic guitar, which may have been one of the coolest things I had ever seen.
That week had some of the most powerful worship I had ever experienced. My friend and I found ourselves doing things that were incredibly unusual to us. We were reaching out to the sky, emphasizing every word of every song with our hands. We were on our faces before God, praying and praying.
But it wasn’t like this at home. Sure, we still worshiped, but this was more extreme than usual. What was it about being at this campground; this community; that made worship what it was?
Well, I think a big part of it was that we came expecting. We knew that God was going to meet us there that week with all of those people and so we came with that expectation. Perhaps we knew this because we had seen it before, or perhaps it was simply simply a feeling God had given us to go off of.
How ever it was that we knew it, we came with expectation, and God met us there. And it’s not that He met us in any charismatic or crazy way (although I’m sure there were people who were weirded out by those emotional guys up front), but He simply met us where we were at and silently worked in us.
And that’s one of my problems as of late. I don’t always come expecting, and for that reason, I feel that I make it more difficult for Him to meet me where I’m at. I’m not alert to the fact that He wants to do a new thing in me and so I don’t come expecting.
And on top of that, now that I’m at a very, very expressive church, I expect that that’s what God looks like when He comes. Which is true, God does often times look and sound like a party, but He also at times stays invisible and works silently within us.
And sometimes that silence becomes so noticeable that God becomes visible in it. I learned that at SLR this past year. It was the first time I had ever been to one of these Spring Arbor Spiritual Life Retreats, and we saw God invade worship perhaps more powerfully than ever before in the SAU community. And it wasn’t in the music that He invaded worship.
It was in the silence.
We finished a song and then there was nothing. Nothing but pure silence.
The band was silent.
The speaker was silent.
The people were silent.
Everyone was silent.
Only the loud hum of the air conditioning could be heard.
But was anything happening? Was God working in this silence?
Well, many, many minutes of silence later a girl broke into tears and prayer. When she stopped, yet another person prayed aloud. Prayer after prayer; person after person; God showed how powerfully He worked in the silence.
So now, we relearn how to come to worship with expectation, despite the mood we might be in at the time.
we come expecting.