It was early in the summer of 2012 and my Pastor decided to switch plans for our annual youth convention. Our church was under an organization that covered many other churches. Each year the organization had a youth convention where the various affiliated churches would gather for a few days of fun field activities for the youth. During that time, I was in my early 20’s and not really interested in youth ministry. Honestly, I viewed it as being kind of lame. Till this day, I don’t even remember exactly what took place, besides a few services.
Our Pastor and youth leader told us that we would switch away from the traditional youth convention and join MorningStar Fellowship Church in Fort Mill, South Carolina for their annual youth convention. They told us that they wanted to expose us to something different, beyond the mundane routine of dressing up, assembling to sing songs, clapping to the music, and listening to a sermon. Our leaders wanted to expose us to a diverse group of young worshipers in an atmosphere exclusively governed by the supreme power of God‘s Holy Spirit. They spoke of the many miracles that transpired during past conferences, the great teachings, and the awesome Presence of God that was strong amidst worship. I liked what I heard about this youth convention, but I had no idea exactly how much it would change my life.
When we first arrived at MorningStar in Fort Mill, the diversity was one of the first things I noticed. I had the pleasure of growing up in Howard County, Maryland where my friends were of various ethnicities, from Indian, Haitian, and Mexican to Jamaican, Puerto Rican, and African. Diversity has always been important to me because it helps one to embrace and understand cultures and perspectives outside of their own; however, the church I belonged to with my family was predominantly black. This was part of the reason our Pastor wanted us to attend MorningStar. He wanted more than just the “black church experience” for us. He wanted us to experience the kingdom, which is multicultural, multilingual, and multiethnic.
During the first evening at MorningStar, we enjoyed an evening of worship and a great word. It was such a peaceful and comfortable atmosphere. It was certainly a place for FREEDOM. If anyone was bound in any way, they would certainly get free in that atmosphere (unless their heart was the most callous). I was intrigued, as it was something I wasn’t used to, yet always dreamed of.
The main sessions took place in the huge atrium, with breakout sessions in various rooms throughout the building. People were dancing freely during worship. There was a canvas with paint and brushes at the front near the stage. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, creatives painted on the canvas during worship. The worship band was awesome. I was accustomed to and kind of tired of the traditional gospel sound with the tambourines, drum track, and organ that I usually heard in church. At MorningStar, there were guitars, keyboards, and pads – a totally different sound, a sound that I preferred. The place was packed with youth from ministries from all over the country, from kids to young adults. There were also plenty of Elders and leaders from the different ministries.
Worship was wild. There was no coaching or cheerleading. No one had to coerce anyone to run to the altar. No one had to lecture on why worship is vital. There was a unified thirst for God’s Presence and there was no holding back. There was JOY in the atmosphere. PEACE permeated. I experienced a type of FREEDOM that I had never experienced before. It was beyond remarkable. I lifted my hands. I sang. I danced. In that moment, nothing else mattered. I truly learned how to enjoy worship. It’s so much more than just singing songs out of routine. It’s a heart connection. It’s our offering of love, affection, and undivided attention to God. He is beyond deserving of such.
The Holy Spirit set so many hearts on fire that folks were desperate to be baptized. So around 9PM, the leaders led everyone outside to the Baptism pool and everyone who desired to be baptized was. It was wild. It was awesome. I’d never experienced or encountered anything like it before. It was Kingdom – God’s perfect Will, Rule, Presence, Power, and Authority amidst His unified people. This should be the norm.
The convention was filled with many great teachings on the various gifts of the Holy Spirit (like prophecy, etc.), prayer sessions where obvious miraculous healings transpired, and outings to inspirational places like the Billy Graham Museum. I thoroughly enjoyed and gained great knowledge and insight from each session; However, one particular session led me into one of the GREATEST and MOST POWERFUL encounters with God I’ve ever had – a type of encounter I always heard about but never truly experienced until that precious moment.
I’ll never forget it. A powerful session of teaching had ended and we were welcomed to leave if we desired, but it was so obvious that the Holy Spirit was moving in and through people. The room was filled with the Presence of God – a Presence that you don’t just walk away from, but an inviting Presence that captures your heart and brings you down on your knees. We responded to his presence as only we know how – WORSHIP. I literally laid prostrate on the floor along with many others. I honestly can’t even recall if the worship band was playing. I don’t necessarily recall music. The only thing I really recall from that precious moment is His Sovereign, Almighty voice.
A few weeks prior to the convention, I had casually asked God, “How do you feel about me?” I knew that God loved me. I was quite familiar with all the songs we sang at church about God’s love. I had previously encountered His Presence where peace and joy overtook me; however, I still didn’t quite grasp the truth of God loving me intimately. I knew of His love toward me and I knew of some of the most popular Bible verses about God’s love (like John 3:16), but I really wanted to know exactly how God viewed me. At the time I was still struggling with certain sins and there were moments when I felt unworthy of God’s love and acceptance. So, I really wanted to know how God felt about me – if He was pleased with me, displeased, etc.
YOU ARE AS PRECIOUS AS A RARE DIAMOND. That’s what I heard Him tell me as I lay prostrate on the floor in worship. It’s funny how sometimes God doesn’t answer our questions right away. Sometimes (seemingly often) we have to wait for the answer, but when He speaks to our hearts, it is the most LIBERATING, AWESOME, and OVERWHELMING, difficult to even describe with words. In that moment, weeks after I asked the initial question, God provided His answer. It comes as no surprise that the answer came to me in deep worship. If we ever truly want to hear God speak, spending time in worship (and prayer) will surely fine-tune our ears and hearts to His powerful voice.
Upon hearing His voice speak to me so clearly, all I could do is bawl – and I mean the kind of bawling where your nose is running like a water faucet and you could care less. In that moment, only one thing mattered – His voice. It’s as if nothing else existed. I was in such awe. Totally speechless. Overwhelmed with joy. Overflowing with gratefulness. Stabilized in peace and confidence. Empowered and strengthened in every way. His voice was not audible. It was nothing I heard with my natural ears. God is SUPERnatural, exceeding our natural senses.
His voice spoke to my mind and heart, providing a deep knowing, sealed with confidence that can only come from Him. With this deep knowing and confidence came overflowing peace, assurance, and joy. It was truly one of the most defining moments in my Christian journey. I light up every time I reflect upon it. It was the first time I so clearly heard Him speak to me. It was the first time he grabbed my heart that powerfully. Of course, it all took place in worship, the place where God has called us (John 4:23-24).