For me, church is not just a building or even a group of people who worship and serve together – it’s something that happens.
As a kid I went to a rustic church camp tucked away in the hills of Arkansas. When my youth group first started going there, the cabins didn’t have air conditioning and you needed to wear rubber-soled flip flops in the shower to avoid a slight shock.
The centerpiece of the camp was the chapel and it had only a dirt floor and a tin roof. No walls. No frills. One night, it started to storm. Rain came down in sheets and slammed into the tin roof, making it almost impossible to hear anything else. Within minutes of the start of service water ran down the aisles and formed puddles among the uncomfortable pews.
But just when it seemed worthless to stay and try to listen, a man stood to sing the old Southern hymn “When the Roll is Called up Yonder.” It was as if he had swallowed a microphone. His deep voice carried from the front of that soaked little chapel all the way to the back, and as the words from the song washed over the congregation, things began to change. Teenagers started standing and thanking God for the changes they had seen in their lives, for the times he had helped them through rough spots and for the love he shared with them. Gratitude and grace entered the room and there, amid the mud and the rain, church happened –creating a moment that God might want to be part of, something sacred, powerful and unforgettable.
I’ve been back many times to that little chapel that now has a cement floor and a new roof. I’ve spent time in the opulence and beauty of the Vatican. I’ve had thoughtful conversations with groups of friends, and I’ve stood alone in my modest kitchen with just the buzzing of the refrigerator. In all of those places I’ve had extraordinary moments when I’ve felt close to God and faith has come alive for me.
Hopefully I’ll have many more moments like that, wherever God would like to meet me.