This week on the blog, Pippa shares with us about Encounter, a time to engage with God.
We love the presence of God. It has always been God’s desire to dwell among His people – in the garden of Eden when God walked with Adam and Eve, through the Tabernacle, the Temple, through Jesus Himself and now through the Holy Spirit living inside of us! God is everywhere all the time (omnipresent), even when we don’t experience Him or recognise Him but we can also become aware of his manifest presence – His presence made known to us – the fact that He is with us is made clear and convincing. God became manifest when He revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3), Jesus became manifest through the incarnation when the “word became flesh” (John 1), and the Holy Spirit became manifest to the believers on the day of Pentecost when they were filled with the Spirit and they “started speaking in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2). The Triune God is still making Himself known to us today.
Though the Spirit now lives within us – praise God! – we are not always aware of Him all the time. The whole point of God’s manifest presence is that our awareness of Him is awakened, stirred or roused. Now that might look different for every single person and it might not necessarily be visible or felt physically, but His presence is experienced all the same. It could be a song or Bible verse that’s brought to mind, a prompting to pray for someone, a divine appointment with a friend, a prophetic word, a desire to study the Bible or a deep feeling of peace. God is not limited in how He reveals Himself.
Sometimes in our Sunday gatherings we are very aware of His manifest presence (that God is with us) and we see the evidence of this by God speaking through His church exercising spiritual gifts, through healings, communion and worship; this is wonderful. But because our gatherings are often full of so many important components we don’t always have a huge amount of time to just hang out with God, to take more time to rest in Him, to worship Him for longer, in different ways and to pursue more spiritual gifts.
This is where Encounter comes in. Encounter (formerly called Hungry) is a gathering where the only agenda is to make space to engage with God and encounter Him. In the past we have mostly begun with sung worship (usually unplugged), then left lots of room for anyone to contribute – whether that’s a song, prayer, Scripture or prophetic word for example. They have been powerful evenings of pouring our hearts out to God and His church being built up, by people stepping out in spiritual gifts as well as an undeniable sense of the manifest presence of God with us.
Here’s what a couple of people said about it…
“Hungry gives space for freedom in worship; it is a valuable opportunity at the end of a frantic day, week or month to encounter a deep connection with God. I have been so blessed by it and particularly by others who have stepped out in their gifts and expressed their praise and worship. It is not to be missed!” (Sarah)
“The first thing I thought of when I was asked why I go to Hungry is, ‘be still and know that I am God’. It’s a time when I can simply be reminded of who I am in Him, but more importantly who He is. I’ve never come away from any time of seeking and praising God, thinking that it was a waste of time but normally the opposite! I love that we worship and seek God together as the body and I’m encouraged and provoked to see other people’s heart and passion, which is often displayed more intimately at Hungry than in other contexts.” (Hugh)
We have loved these evenings too, and we want to expand them further. We recognise that there are so many different ways to worship and connect with God and we want to create a broader range of ways to engage with Him by providing some stations for different expressions of worship like the arts, focusing on Scripture, communion and soaking spaces. These might not all happen on the same evening, but we hope to reflect further the breadth of worship we see in Scripture. There will also be a slightly different focus each time we meet. There may be times when there’s just an acoustic guitar with a focus on being still and knowing He is God. Then other times there might be a full band as we celebrate His victory and focus on the joy and freedom we have in Him. We want to remain completely open to what the Holy Spirit wants to do and say each time we gather and we want to glorify Him first and foremost.
So here’s your invitation: come and encounter the living God! Come if you’re tired and weary and need refreshing (Matthew 11). Come if you’re hungry for more of God (Psalm 27). Come to step out in spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12). Come to encourage and be encouraged (Hebrews 10:25). Come to be filled with the Holy Spirit and with joy (Acts 13:52). Come for any of these reasons or for none of them at all! Come to worship our amazing God (1 Chronicles 16:23-31). Come to give him the glory he deserves (Psalm 86:12).
Our next Encounter meeting is on Saturday 14th September at 7:45pm at St Mark’s.