When I was in college (around my sophomore and junior years), I dated a girl off and on for about a year. For all intents and purposes, she was a nice girl; very pretty, cool, and bilingual. But something always bothered me about her. I couldn't put my finger on it while we were going out. It wasn't until we broke up that I was able to articulate it.

It was the way that she worshipped.

Now don't get me wrong, I believe in freedom of expression when it comes to worship. I believe that each of us is free to connect with God in the way that we feel is best, so long as it doesn't cause a distraction to others or cause them to stumble. However, what bothered me about her was that she didn't have a personal way to worship. When she was with me in chapel (which I hated), she would stand quietly with her arms folded and brow furrowed (which I did). When she was with her hallmates, she would lift her hands, close her eyes, and sing loudly. When she was with another group of people, she would lie prostrate on the floor, and cry (not yell, but weep) to God. And that bugged me. It bugged me that she changed her style depending upon who she was sitting beside.

I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when Taffy asked me to come on a high school student worship leaders' retreat.

It was simple enough. Each of us adults would pile some kids in our cars and go to a different church to attend, observe, and participate in worship in both the adult service and the youth service. I took the freshmen guys to Coast Hills.

Nothing that unusual to report on from the adult service. But when we went to the Middle School service, I couldn't help but be reminded of my ex. As the worship band started the service, I was still a bit drowsy from the morning. So it took me a little while to loosen up and participate. So I stood quietly with my hands in my pockets, trying my best to not be a distraction. As I glanced to my left, I noticed that the three guys I was with were doing the same. Within a few songs (and after a Starbucks) I was awake enough to participate. As the band started playing Holy is the Lord, I entered into worship myself. I raised my hands, closed my eyes, and sung aloud to one of my favorite songs. A few times, i glanced to my left and saw that all three guys were doing the same as me.

Were they mimicking me? Did they feel that by me loosening up, it gave them permission to do the same? I'm not sure. But I was left with these thoughts:

  • In student ministry (and in life), someone is always watching. How we live our lives matters. It speaks to people that we may never have a conversation with.

  • We must be thoughtful in teaching people about God. We must be even more thoughtful about how we live our lives in relation to God, as that will teach more than our sermons or lessons ever will. Without realizing it, how I worship, pray, and relate to God could become an instruction manual for someone else. This makes me want to make sure my stuff is together.

    I guess you could say I've been thinking about being an example a lot lately. I can't help but think I've got a long way to go...

    Julie Hibbard said...

    GREAT post. Good thinking. It's hard to be comfortable sometimes. And doing what is 'natural' sometimes depends on where you are and who you are with and what day it is and if my jeans fit correctly and I had enough to eat...you know what I mean.
    Thanks for being an example of how to be NATURAL and HONEST...
    not of how to worship.
    I still think you are the best!

    Steph said...

    You're right. As leaders of young students who are impressionable and still figuring it out, testing the waters, learning what it means to walk with Christ, we have to step it up and not always just be teaching them what it means to love the lord, but simply Loving the Lord in an authentic way and letting them watch! When we can be real Christians and not just camellians, thats when others see the Lord.
    Hope your ex doesnt blog....ouch :I