Expectant Encounter…

Let me take you back.

Maybe it’s the late 90s.  I’m a teenager and I’m sitting at my place in the band at the Salvation Army hall.  It has been a great meeting.  Songs of celebration, worship, prayer, praise, testimony, and the Captain has just preached.

He’s preached about the intimacy of God, perhaps; about the immediacy and power of the Spirit; about the call to holiness; or, maybe he or she has preached the gospel; or maybe teaching through a NT letter;….or something.  Every Sunday night, I know that the whole meeting is going to head towards one particular point: the response.

The Word of God will have been preached, and we all know, without any doubt, that it asks, challenges, demands, calls, invites towards something.  Without fail.  We know that God loves us and has called us to be his, and that he invites us to partner with him through this week ahead as witnesses for Jesus wherever we are, whatever the hardship, whatever our circumstance.  And we KNOW, that next week, we’ll be able to come back to the same place and tell the stories of his working in our lives, and in the lives amongst those we’re living.

But, it’s shortly before 7pm.  The message has been preached, and the ‘prayer meeting’ starts.  And we’re in prayer, the whole meeting.  There will be singing, maybe sustained for a while…familiar choruses helping us sing, pray, know his presence.  And the Spirit would move among us and there is always opportunity to receive prayer of any sort at ‘the mercy seat’ – a place near the front of every Sally Army hall reserved for response.

mercyseat02A place of salvation; a place of prayer; a place of calling out; a place of repentance; a place of Spirit outpouring; a place of healing; a place of desperate expectancy; a place of equipping; a place of transformation; a place of commitment.  Not that the actual bit of wood was special, but special things happened there.  It was a constant reminder to all of us the God was in the business of meeting with his people and transforming them.

So, going on into ministry with that formative experience definitely shaped my understanding of what meeting for worship was all about.  It wasn’t just performer-audience…it was a place of expectant encounter with the living God.  And boy did I need the living God in every breath as I figured out how to live this life of in a hostile home, work, and school environment.  I wanted the people I was leading and ministering to to have the same experience – a God who would meet with them, change them, empower them, and fill them for whatever lies ahead.  I remember many holy moments.  Powerful.

I still want the same now in ministry.  I don’t want to ever just turn up and go home feeling like I’ve gone through the motions.  And I don’t want the church to feel like that either.

And this all leads me to say that we all need to learn how to wait on God and give space for him to move.  In our own experience, we need to learn how to break out from under the umbrella and let God alight upon us by his Spirit.  We need to learn to come before God expectant that God will move, speak, impact, change, empower, transform.

We need to learn awe, humility, and how to submit in such a way that the Spirit of God can have his way with us in the thousand holy moments of divine encounter.  I’m not content just to have learned something interesting or caught up with people I know and love.  I want to come and know the power of God at work in and through his people.

Going back 20 years…there’d be the final song.  And it was usually one you could stomp to because, filled afresh with the missionary Spirit, it was time to march out.  It was one with a hundred choruses because the next movement was a step onto the battlefield of the world where we’d see victories and defeats, advances and retreats…but we’d go knowing that Christ was our commander and the battle belonged to Him.  ‘The World for God!’, the battle Cry.

On we march with the Blood and the Fire
to the ends of the earth we will go;
And the Saviour’s love will be the theme of our song
because we love Him so!

The nostalgia is nice.  But it’s not the wrapping I want.  It’s Him alone.  Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be Done.

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