Hey church! I’m so glad to be back into the swing of things after the holiday season!

My new year has already started with a bang, and it has been so great to see how God has been moving in my life, and in the lives of some of the students in our church. Last week, we took a group of about 20 high school and college students to Atlanta, Georgia to attend Passion 2017. And while I don’t want to rub it in that we got to worship with bands and artists like Hillsong United, the Passion Band, Crowder, CARRIE UNDERWOOD, Chris Tomlin, and Christian Stanfield… I do want to make a point of sharing a huge heart change that I experienced while I was there. Because Passion 2017 completely changed how I view the act of worship.  And it’s going to surprise you, maybe. Maybe you will think less of me at the end of it, maybe not… But honestly I don’t care, because I know that someone needs to read this today.

Now, I don’t know if some of you know this about me… But I’m kind of a cynic. I tend to expect the worst from people, and it’s something that I am constantly working on. I find myself believing that people, especially Christians, are selfish, are fake, and are mostly just concerned with what others think about them. The reason I think this way, I suppose, is because of two reasons: 1. There have been times in my life where I thought people were being genuine in their faith and words, and later I found out that they weren’t… and it made me feel tricked and hurt. And 2. There have been MANY times when I have found myself trying to be someone that I wasn’t. So, naturally, I believed that everyone acted that way.

Some people do act this way. They come to church and check their hatefulness, pride, and selfishness at the door so they can look like a “good” Christian at church… Just to pick all those things back up as soon as they walk out.

So with all of this cynicism in my heart… last week while we were surrounded by 50,000 people all together in worship, I couldn’t help myself. I would look around and think “Yeah you are praising God now, but there’s no telling what you were doing last Friday night.” Or I would see someone raising their hands in worship and think “You’re just doing that so the people around you think that you are holier than they are…” I couldn’t help it… I had to think the worst.

And you know what? I realized that I was right.

On probably the last session of the week, I realized that I was exactly right. I looked around at the students around me, and saw that they were messed up. They had made mistakes… Maybe even the day before. I realized that they were broken. People had hurt them, they had hurt others, and some of them probably even felt hurt by God. Some of them had probably cursed God when they lost a loved one… Some of them felt betrayed, their prayers that they had cried out hadn’t been answered. But still, in the midst of their mess, in the midst of their hurt and mistakes… They were worshiping.

As I looked at the crowed around me, their hurts and their pain became a burden to me. And I asked myself: How could you worship right now? While I pondered that question over and over, finally an answer came… It started out as just a small voice in the back of my mind… But as the worship went on, it got louder and louder:

How could you not?

I realized that worship isn’t just for the holy. Worship isn’t just for the happy. Worship isn’t just for the successful…

Worship is for the broken. Worship is for the messed up. And worship is for the sinners.

I looked around, and saw that these students around me weren’t raising their hands to look holy… They were raising their hands for help. Some were singing the words not to be heard by others, but to bring their pain to the feet of Jesus. Their worship was not them saying “Look at me, I’m so good…” It was them saying “God, I messed up. Over and over again I mess up, and I am so sorry.”

Paul tells us in Romans that worship is us making our bodies a “living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God”. (Rom. 12:1) That means we sacrifice everything. We give Him everything. He gets our pain, our sorrow, our sinful nature… All of us. We don’t come to Him already holy, because we are all unworthy of the mercy and grace of God. But when we offer Him those things… He is the one that makes us holy. He is the one that sanctifies us.

I know that there are always going to be people who think worship and church are all about playing the part of a saint… But I want everyone to know: None of us are perfect. We come to church together not to put on a face, but to hold each other up. We worship together not to compare who is better, but to say “God we are all broken… Please put us back together in Your image.”

That is the act of worship.

I’m so thankful that God lugged me to Atlanta at the beginning of January… for a heart change.

Hunter, Creative Arts Director