Wednesday, August 6, 2008

An Important Week - A Different Church

A Different Church

I had told my friend a few weeks ago that as much as I love ROCKHARBOR, I wanted to start experiencing other churches, because it was the only place I had ever been to and I wanted to know what went on in other ones. The night before Serve Day was a good time to start, because there was a celebration service at Mariner's Church, a mega-church in Irvine where one of my friends' fathers is a pastor. I enjoyed the service very much, though there weren't many people there, and felt really comfortable there. That Sunday, my friend and I went to their "Sunday Night" service, which is brand new and takes place in a small room above the worship center. There were about 30 people there, and everyone sits in a circle to worship, pray (a lot, I liked that), and listen to the message. It had a good sense of community, but I know that I like to feel the power of a room packed with hearts on fire for Christ.

This past Sunday, I went to Saddleback Church, another nearby mega-church where Rick Warren (author of Purpose Driven Church and Purpose Driven Life) is senior pastor. Though I had heard about their "rock and roll" services, I opted for the regular one, as I wanted to experience the "normal" church service. As I passed by Overdrive (the "rock" service) I heard great music booming from inside and saw floods of smiling, energetic young people crowding in expectantly.

I kept walking and finally reached the worship center... this place is huge. I walked in during worship, feeling guilty that I had missed that time to worship, but found that a good majority of the attendees were late as well. I was handing an outline and found a seat towards the top. After some announcements, the worship began again, and though the leader asked everyone to stand, a lot of people stayed seated. I stood, and was aware that I was the only one in my area singing. But I pushed my self-consciousness aside and remembered why I was singing. I saw three pairs of hands held up in praise out of the thousands in the room. The band prayed over us, and before we sat we were asked to say hi to some people around us. I quickly turned around and started introducing myself to the people sitting around me, but it seemed as though most people just sat down.

I sat, and the message began. I felt this stale, lifeless air all around me; this energy of "I dare you to make me feel something" as the pastor spoke, and it was discouraging. I said a silent prayer that God would awaken their hearts so they could have a close relationship with Him as well. Many of the people still wore their Bluetooth device and were talking quietly during the service. I wondered why they were there. I really enjoyed the message, and got a lot of good information out of it. It was about the bible from its very origins; who wrote it, how it was compiled, what it is used for, how its misinterpreted, and how we can try to connect with it better. As the pastor referred to scripture and I flipped through my bible to find the page, I realized no one around me had a bible with them, but were reading the words off of the outline we were given. It ended with the second side of the page, which was a "fill in the blank" and true/false activity that the pastor led.

As soon as the message ended and the pastor finished praying, the worship band came back up on stage and started playing and about half of the congregation jumped out of their seats and shuffled out the door! I've never left church early, but I left too, because I knew my heart wasn't in the right place to worship. I couldn't feel God's presence there. I left feeling empty.

That night, my friend and I decided to go to our good ol' home-church, ROCKHARBOR, and I can't begin to explain what a good idea that was. God was there! There was no doubt about it. We sat in the middle amidst a crowd of passionate followers of Christ and I could feel the presence of God physically and emotionally. The message was fantastic, and just what I needed to hear. It was about why we do the things we do, and how to do them so as to please God, not to be driven by the wrong influences. When we worshiped, I truly worshiped God with my whole heart and any sense of self-consciousness or doubt was washed away. It was such a moving experience.

I will continue to experience other churches because I feel the need to know and understand the body of Christ as a whole. But I do really love ROCKHARBOR. This weekend was such a great reminder of what keeps me coming back every weekend with an expectant, excited heart.

Beyond all the details, God is so good to me. I felt myself becoming more and more distant from Him, and started to wonder why HE was leaving me! Oh, the silly things I come up with. God never leaves me, this I know. But its up to me to choose to hang out with Him, make Him a priority, and fix my eyes on Him alone. It's up to me, and it's certainly not about me. It's all about Him!

I've had A Purpose Drive Life, by Rick Warren, sitting on my bookshelf for quite some time now. After reading the Prologue and seeing that you're supposed to read only one chapter a day for 40 straight days, I had set it aside, thinking I couldn't commit. But as it says, we live on average 25,550 days. What reason on earth would we have for not being able to commit 40 of them to figure out our purpose for the rest of them?? When you think about it like that, it sounds absurd that we couldn't devote a few minutes (a measly few minutes!) to getting to know God and His plan for us better. Oh, the way our minds work. So I am committed. Today was my second day, and so far I've learned more than I expected. One of the last sentences of the chapter today even made me cry! No joke, sitting on my bed, and the tears started flowing. I needed this.

In other news, I have an informational meeting/writing audition on Wednesday for the writing team for ROCKHARBOR's publication, Motion. Since I love to write and I love God, it seems like the perfect opportunity for me. I know I'm really touched by the stories in it, and I'd love to be a part of touching the hearts of other readers. Please pray for me!

Lord, you've rekindled the fire in my heart and reminded me what peace You bring. I know you have big plans for me and I know that you'll see me through anything. You're my reason, for loving, laughing, caring, breathing. You're the reason. I'm only here because you will me to be. Thank you God for the unbelievable grace you show me constantly. I see You now more than ever and I pray that I will continue to do so. Lead the way, Lord. I'm yours. In Jesus' name. Amen.

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