Iím writing this after a great week at Soul Survivor in the north where worship has really been at the heart of what was going on. I tell you this because for me worship was just singing songs and clapping as loud as I could (which I still try to do). That was until my first experience of 9,000 young people worshipping the Lord at soul survivor about 4 years ago now. This week it has been great to see young worshippers connecting with God in a new way and others giving there lives to him for the first time. But I donít really want to talk about Soul Survivor. I want to talk about what was ignited in me back then and still burns now regardless of setting, whether its 9 or 9,000 people and that is passionate and whole-hearted worship to God. When I arrived home from soul survivor the first time, I decided thatís what I wanted to do, worship the Lord, so I set out with my newly purchased soul survivor songbook and my mums old guitar, shut my bedroom door and set out to worship God. However playing the guitar was not something Iíd done before or would pick up straight away. But this desire did not go away, God had firmly imprinted this on my heart and I was going to learn the guitar whether it hurt or not, which incidentally it did as my fingers werenít used to pressing down on strings. Also no-one had really ever told me how to worship God, my song selection for my newly created congregation, me, usually consisted of songs with chords I could play, which for the first month or so was just Matt Redmanís Blessed Be Your Name.
After a few tantrums and fall outs with the guitar and I guess God for not making me Jimmi Hendrix or even the guy from the Corrs, I slowly started branching out to new songs, my rhythm started to come (some would say still not fully developed!) and I really started to connect with God. Those times in my room just me and God were and still are some of the best moments of worship Iíve ever had, times of absolute Joy over who God was and is, and others of lament trying to grapple with girls and A-Levels all at the same time. But as I look back over my time before uni, realising that I should be writing about uni, God really prepared me for what was ahead. By the time I arrived in York Iíd started to lead worship at Church and in small groups back home. So I really wanted to get stuck in at Uni, after a few weeks of getting used to my surroundings I was leading worship in my small group at CU. Church on the other hand was crazy, having never picked myself a church before I set off with my newly formed church touring friends trying out a different one each week, usually depending on the free lunch. But after about 5 I seemed to settle in a church which was frustratingly 40 minutes away. Anyway I continued to go to this church for most of the 1st and 2nd terms at uni, but for some reason didnít feel at home there, not that it was a bad church just that I donít really know. Anyway one week my new housemate-to-be asked me if I wanted to go to his church one Sunday, which I did as it happed to be right next to uni.
The first time I went to Elim I felt right at home, it has such a family atmosphere and a congregation with people from many backgrounds and races. Itís probably one of the most multi-national churches Iíve ever been to, but still doesnít compromise and is able to include everybody. Anyway a few weeks later I was back home when I got a phone call asking if I wanted to lead worship at church the following week! Iíd been once to the church and they wanted me to lead worship. I later found out that Iíd been recommended by someone who came to uni and that theyíd told them I wasnít crazy or heretical. The opportunity that Elim were willing to give me was amazing even though Iíd only been once. The trust that they put in God that He can cope no matter what the circumstance was fantastic and a real help and blessing. It really puts you at ease knowing that they in a way expect you not to be perfect. There is always an opportunity to get involved with the church whether it be kids work or welcoming. Graham, the pastor, is very approachable and always encourages us to try new things in worship, not just sticking to the tried and tested method of 5 songs in a western traditional way. I think this is how they are able to appeal to so many cultures, by not being to closed and stuck in the way they do things enables them to encourage students not only to develop but in their congregation to worship the Lord no matter what.
My time at university so far has been really great, giving me opportunities both in Church and the CU to use the gifts God has given me and to develop them. Its been amazing to look back and see how God is firmly in control though it doesnít always feel like it at the time. Its easy to worship God when things are going well but one thing Iíve learnt and am still learning is how incredible and important it is to worship Him when times are not as great. Our worship should be at a constant level not dependant on our feelings but on His awesomeness, which He ALWAYS is.
"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."