WEDNESDAY NIGHT WORSHIP
So last night, our youth group got together to worship like we do every Wednesday night. But last night was different. You know those nights where you can just feel the presence of God in the worship and see the look of engagement in the eyes of your teens during a lesson… It was not one of those nights.
Last night was bad. I mean just downright discouraging. It was just one of those nights where nearly everything was working against us. We recently painted in our youth room thanks to my good friend, Russell Crook, the members of my teen leadership team (2nd Squad) and the donors from our flocking campaign. A very good thing right? Except that I didn’t budget enough time to put the youth room back together before worship and I was struggling to put everything in its place when the teens were showing up. Well after we ate together and wasted time together, worship begins to start.
We always start with announcements and that went pretty well. But then worship comes and things start to go bad. Admittedly, I’m not a great worship leader at all, but I can usually make do. For some reason though, I couldn’t stop starting every song too high. My voice was straining and it made our worship less than moving. There was also a song I wanted to teach (“Build Your Kingdom Here”) that we learned at Winterfest but the sound system started shorting out. Apparently in my haste to set everything up I messed something up with the wiring. Well shoot, so I play the song on my phone and we try to sing it, but I lead it too high again and it doesn’t go really well.
Well i’m pretty frustrated at this point and the teens are pretty disengaged. Several aren’t singing and some are just distracting others by talking. I try leading a couple more songs (still too high) and pray Barrett Thompson, my adult volunteer at the media booth can figure something out with the sound. We’re in the middle of a DVD series made by Francis Chan titled “BASIC”. We get to the DVD and it works for a little, and then the receiver burns out. It’s toast. I have no lesson prepared, the singing hasn’t been good, and I need to keep the teens in the classroom for at least 20 more minutes before I can let them loose. What to do.
Now at this point in the story… Things are looking pretty grim. And some of you might be expecting for me to hit you with an amazing story about how I led everyone in a prayer, spoke from my heart and it turned out to be an amazing night. I wish I could tell you that. I wish I could tell you I felt God’s presence in the room as I let the teens speak about how God has changed their life and everyone was uplifted or that a service project came to mind and we all went and did something that encouraged someone… but I couldn’t think of a single thing. All that we ended up doing was sang a couple more songs, said a prayer, and wrapped things up. Really amazing huh?
This isn’t the type of stories we usually like hearing about, or talking about; but the truth is that worship services like this happen and we tend to sweep them under the rug and try our best to engineer a more worshipful service for next time. I completely understand that response. I don’t want our students discouraged, I don’t want to let others know that last night’s worship was a dud. I don’t want anyone to feel like the efforts we make to connect to God sometimes just don’t work. But I think if we were all honest about our walk, we’d admit that there have been several times that we made efforts to draw close to God and seemed to grasp at nothing. Maybe we’ve read chapters or entire books of the Bible and not felt once like God’s Word taught us anything. Or maybe we sang that song everyone loves but for us, it’s getting old, maybe even annoying. Perhaps you went off to camp or a retreat and actually returned asking more questions about your faith and felt more challenged in your walk than you usually do out in the world.
If you’ve ever felt this way. Join the club! Discouragement is all around us. Forces are at work to dismantle everything in your life connected to the kingdom, to the church. This isn’t new. Nor is this easy. It is very much apart of living faithfully. We are pretty good at being buddy buddy with God when we feel like we can see Him. But what about all those times when we feel like we can’t find God? Randy Harris writes in his book “Soul Work” (specifically to ministers but I’d say it applies to all Christians… who are all ministers) that the only way to keep our integrity as Christians is not being afraid to say to each other, “I’m not sure, I’ve had better days than today with my faith, but I’m going to walk in integrity even when i don’t see so well.” He writes that true surrender “…is about you walking with God even in darkness.”
Hebrews 11:1 gives a definition of faith. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
Many times we can’t see God in a given moment. Last night was one of those times… but sometimes a future perspective can help. Thinking back to last night’s worship service, there were several things that happened that seemingly happen every week that are very good things. Friendships were strengthened, relationships were developing, we sang out to God (to a God who doesn’t put much value in the pitch of a worship song), we gathered together to be together and to be with God, someone brought a friend who had never been there before, we received the motivation to finally buy a much needed new receiver, we laughed together, I was presented with a great idea for a Spring youth activity that included spending a night making “hobo meals” and sleeping in a cardboard box, we ate food together in community, we all mass texted our media minister (Darren Faulk) happy birthday, and we are better off for having met together. Thank God for every opportunity we have to meet together!
In summary, it’s normal to experience times when we feel like darkness is all around us, it’s joyous when we feel like we are surrounded by light, it’s faith to praise God in either situation.