Wow, so yesterday marked the last day of the 3 day conference called The Edge Conference and I have been so mightily touched and encouraged by everything I’ve seen and heard. Buzzing from the excitement and everything. God is good. God is very very good. There were many timely reminders in the sermons throughout the 3 days and I hope to cover some of them here, at least those which gave me the ‘Aha!’ moment and impacted me.
First and foremost though, on a personal level, it was pretty much an eye-opening experience, mostly due to the whole set-up and context of the conference. It was really different. The worship and culture, that is. And that actually allowed me opportunity for growth. God is faithful and He set my heart right to be able to worship in a new place.
Now, I have to admit, I had a really bad attitude regarding changes in the environment and basically accepting and embracing new styles and experiences. I don’t like new things. Or the unknown. I don’t really like change. I like familiarity and the comfort of that. I like thinking that what I’ve experienced is already the best version of everything else. I’m a bit of a narrow-minded person. Which is sad. I don’t want to be narrow-minded. Narrow-minded people can be so difficult to deal with. Coincidentally, mother was telling me how I’m rather close-minded and really ought to keep an open mind to things. (We were discussing modules for the next semester at school and I was making sour faces at the thought of a business module which I didn’t really care for. I argued that I would try it and do my best if I had to take it but it doesn’t mean I’ll like it. She said I was inflexible and would die in the real world if I kept like that. She didn’t want me to die in the working world.)
So it was quite a culture shock for the several youths including me that came to attend. For one thing, the worship in our church isn’t quite as loud. Or long. Or elaborate. The band here was huge. Large. Think three electric guitarists, two acoustic guitars, two basses, three singers, a drummer and keyboardist and the worship leader huge. And the lights. The strobe lights. The disco-ish lights. The wall of background lights. Let’s not forget the smoke machine. And the swinging cameras to capture the worship in action. This was a huge a deal in the conference. The worship was a huge deal. The light shows were all coordinated to the almost overly loud music. All the technology and everything. So much effort went into this stuff. Also, while we were used to pre-service prayers being more quiet, more meditative (to, after all, still ourselves from life and prepare our hearts for worship), the pre-service prayers here were full-force declamatory and just so…hyped. I always thought pre-service prayers were like worship warm-ups so it was a little shocking for the pre-service prayers here to be so almost full-swing worship already. And while our church is decently up-to-date with technology and has really talented musicians serving the congregation, we didn’t do so…much. So loudly at least.
There were several other components in the culture of the conference that also took us a while to get used to (the cheering of the pastors as they came up, the ‘Jesus’ rallies, the ‘Amen’ the congregation would shout after an especially relevant and good point was made by the speaker, just to name a few). Those were easier to get used to. It was fun. But it was still very different and required some time.
I call back to another worship experience on campus. I was invited to another church gathering by my friend in university and it was also very different, to the other extreme of The Edge. The meeting consisted of a group of students seated in a circle of a classroom and their worship was a kind of acapella singing (their guitarist couldn’t make it at the last minute) of old hymns. They didn’t raise their hands or anything like that, the complete opposite of worshippers at The Edge who were jumping and dancing and praising in tongues.
I remember being a douchebag when I was there at my friend’s meeting. I had been inwardly mocking their acapella singing, their choice of songs and how they didn’t raise their hands to pray and stuff. I remember thinking “They should do things the way MY church did. It’s way better than this.” And I know that this whole comparison thing is something I do a lot. I always do this “My church is better than yours” thing and show off how ‘clever’ I am, or how experienced I was. I don’t even know what I was trying to prove. The thing is that these thoughts really don’t benefit anyone. Thinking back, I don’t think I would have had a holier experience if the guitarist did come, or if they raised their hands to pray. I remember being ashamed when I considered how earnest these worshippers were, without music to back up their singing, in a classroom, just studying the Word of God. While I was caught up in these small aspects of the whole God experience, my friend and these disciples of Jesus were fervently pursuing God. And I missed that. I was very humbled when I saw the childish way I acted, how short I’ve fallen, the God experience I missed out because I thought I knew better while the others pulled ahead, focused on what they were even here for in the first place: God in His entirety, through worship and prayer and the word.
That experience kind of reflected the skewed position of my heart. It just showed me that maybe I didn’t go for God. If I did, I wouldn’t have minded the differences. I would have noticed them and taken time to assimilate to them but I wouldn’t have mocked them and let them affect my pursuit of God.
So this time, when I saw the set-up and first experienced the worship, I knew how easy it was for me to start comparing and complaining, to mock and doubt the sincerity of these worshippers. I was almost afraid of being a douchebag again.
What put me on the right track real quick was the example of our two youth leaders who came along with us. I just so happened to be sitting between them and that influenced my posture of worshipping at the conference. I was a little apprehensive when the worship and the light show began. The worship leader was going all declamatory as per their culture and the electric guitars were starting up. I could already feel the magnitude of sound that was going to hit me and I was on the fence as to how far I should let go and worship in this completely new environment, how far can I even embrace this environment to properly worship.
My two youth pastors gave me the answer real quick by show of their example. Just two minutes into this really scary experience, where I was still debating regarding my posture to the worship, both of them just lifted their hands up and were all ready to praise and worship God even though they were in the same foreign environment I was in. They just did what seemed to come so naturally for them: worship during worship.
And that just blew me away. These people came from the same place I came from, the same church, and experienced the same kind of worship I was used to, but they came and they were already ready to worship in this completely different place. It just reflected their hearts. I remembered being amazed, really amazed, at how ready they were to praise and worship God anytime, anywhere. It seems as if they have been praising and worshipping God all the time in their hearts, in their heads and it just comes out now because it’s a dedicated time set aside for a congregation to praise and worship. It’s like they do it all the time enough such that it comes so naturally for them to worship out loud, wherever they might be. There was no hesitation at all. These people are worshippers and it shows. It does show that they constantly worship. And I admired that greatly. I admired how these people embraced the differences even though it was tiring and foreign. So I embraced this new style of worship too although I did prefer the old style I was used to. I allowed myself to try to worship and after a while, it became much easier. It became natural. By Day 3, I was very much used to the level of the sound and the structure and was really beginning to enjoy myself and get excited in worship. I was surprised at how I managed to assimilate when I was so tired after the first couple of days. I completely credit God for this.
After a while, I began to see things I might not have been able to see through a lens of disdain for the band or the host church. I saw from where I stood, the mass of excited youths, passionate, really passionate and joyful for what Christ has done for them. They were dancing and revelling in the freedom they had in Christ. They were really truly happy from the inside. I only saw this about the second night because I was still a little self-conscious about not jumping and not being all hyped. I began to realise and appreciate that people worship differently but it’s all good as long as we worship the same God. It’s ok for the drummer to drum as hard as she can even if it might blow my eardrums because that’s how she’s honouring God with His gift to her and that’s how she worships. It’s alright if I don’t jump but prefer praying quietly in the midst of the massive Heaven party going on because I feel that God hears me better and I have more time to think and pray meaningfully. There’s no better or worse way to worship. It doesn’t mean that if I don’t jump or raise my hands I’m less joyful or less holy than other people who are constantly hyped. I remember thinking that I was less of a worshipper if I didn’t do these things when I was younger but I realise that that isn’t true. Worship is for God, it’s between you and God. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone in how you worship. In retrospect, no one’s even looking at you.
I’m not discrediting the way they worship compared to us. I recognise that it’s different, yes, it’s all different. In fact, the hundreds of youths are all different. They come from different countries, different family backgrounds, different walks of lives, different everything. They’re completely individual and unique and this way of worship is just one of the many ways of worship. People may be at home with it or find it a bit trying like I did at first. But what binds us all together, praising God in our own way is really just God. The truth of this loving God who set us free binds all these different people together in the place for three days. The hunger and the passion, the reason we all came was for the same God. And that’s just something amazing.
We don’t all have the same problems and we all come with different levels of maturity and experience. But we are common in one aspect, the core and centre of our lives being God and we all want to know this God and we all want to be used to extend His kingdom.
At the end of the day, it really isn’t about how I feel. It’s about God. I see all these youths, seeking for revival, for the touch of God, for the Holy Spirit to move through them and in them, to reach our nation and our generation. I see youths who are not just hankering after a feel good partying experience but are dedicated to walking, really walking beside and in God everyday of their lives. I see this generation hungering for the fire and determined to keep it burning even after all the hype and when we return to our daily tasks. This generation want to hear God’s voice, want to know God, want to read His word and want to bring the world to Him. And I know that God himself won’t deny these people.
This is just so encouraging to me because I had a poor opinion of teenagers even though I am one. Technically. I think of them as passively waiting to be fed, expecting little from God and being a kind of ‘consumer’. I think I must have been like that once. But now I see that there are others who are as young and even younger than me having this thirst to change the world. They’re spiritual lions. I see them so ready, so hungry, so much more mature than I was. And I’m so heartened.
I was also especially heartened by the kids from our church that came with us. I didn’t really notice these kids even though we all grew up in church together and they’re just a few years younger than us. I was too busy finding myself to have bothered about other people. I remember that some of these kids left church for a while and are now back, attending the conference with us. Other kids didn’t grow up in the church but they’re here now too. Still others grew up quietly in church, not dynamically in the limelight serving or anything but just quietly absorbing, thinking, questioning, hungry, growing and then coming here, up and out, moving for God. And it’s so surprising because you don’t expect these people, who I’ve always taken for granted to be a kind of ‘low-key’ teenager, to have such deep roots and such a fiery passion to serve God, their generation and the church.
I jus feel that this generation will be won to God by these people because these youths are willing to be used by God, to be living vessels and sacrifices to pour out God’s love in this sad world. They’re willing to stand in the gap. I truly believe God is going to move throughout the land and through our generation. I’m so excited by it. I see the potential of the youths, so much potential. So much to give, so much work to do.
I’m excited. I don’t want to miss this. I want to be a part of this.
This is so exciting.