This is Church

Written by Mike Verkaik:

I have recently returned from traveling with another group of high school students to Oceans Retreat Center (ORC) in Fish Hoek, SA. As Tim mentioned last week, we are excited about an upstart Christian school moving on to the campus. Part of this Kingdom Encounter was preparing the campus for the transfer to happen smoothly. As change comes to ORC, one place I hope stays in tact is the front room overlooking Recreation Ave. This weekend, I asked people to describe it with words and phrases. The responses were sanctuary, open window to God’s creation, safe haven, a place of peace, holy ground and where God has anointed and dwells.

For team members and staff it rivals what the upper room must have meant to the disciples. A living room filled with memories of the Father’s love and forgiveness, the Holy Spirit’s filling and presence and the Words and peace of Jesus. A place where testimonies are shared, healing received, surrender given and fervent prayers cried out.

Our favorite time of each encounter to South Africa is our last night in this front room sharing takeaways. After two weeks of being immersed in God’s kingdom together, a family unit has been formed, and this is our last Spiritual meal together. As we prepare to come and receive communion at Christ’s table, each participant is given a time to share a testimony, a conviction, or a revelation that was unveiled to them from their Abba Father through His Holy Spirit over the past two weeks.

It is normal to have some awkward pauses materialize as the Holy Spirit prompts students to wrestle with their emotions and share. Being honest, and sometimes vulnerable, in sharing what God revealed to them is a new concept for many. However, this time the pauses were exceptionally long as faces stared into space, tears began to trickle, and deep breaths were exhaled.

Society teaches us to be superficial and shallow in our conversations, saying mindlessly, “I’m good”. However as the followers of Christ we are called to the following:

Look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. – Philippians 2:4

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.– Galatians 6:10

Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story.– Psalm 107:2

As the pauses continued students gained courage while being prompted by the Holy Spirit to be countercultural, and share the brokenness, darkness, and struggles we all battle with against our flesh. For others, they had testimonies that normally go unmentioned because as many students tell me, “we don’t talk about God with our friends”.

The Spirit began to break through the lapses of silence with these normal, but hidden convictions and struggles:

  • I was in a dark place before this trip. I am struggling with an addiction. I’ve been hearing that I need to tell someone, and here I am telling the whole group.
  • Father’s day was really difficult for me.
  • I struggle with my flesh, trying to do everything in my own strength.
  • I long to feel the Holy Spirit in my life but I don’t
  • I’m looking for a reboot, I’m not happy anymore

Others broke through the enemy’s wall of fear and testified to presence of God in their lives:

  • When I was worshipping tonight, I felt such an amazing presence of the Holy Spirit. I have been longing for that.
  • For the first time, I’m opening up to God, and He has been faithful and I have found Him here.
  • God has taught me the importance of obedience and prayer. I can’t control Him.

Sitting there listening, praying I wrote these three words in my journal notes, “This is Church”. It is what we read about in the lives of David, Peter, and Paul to mention a few. Lives which were messy and repentant, and their praises and thanksgivings were recorded. Sharing in our failures and sufferings, as well as receiving encouragement from the testimonies of His presence in us and working through us, are both so valuable for the body of Christ to be healthy and relevant. It is what we read in the book of Acts. This is the essence of Jesus’ final message to His disciples.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.– John 13:34

The Bible is one giant story of God’s faithfulness to His children, whether they are denying Jesus, or pouring perfume over Him. May you have, or find a front room to be in community with others where there are “no stones” and you can live into the freedom of the cross.

1 reply
  1. Jim
    Jim says:

    Amazing how our Lord works in our lives to draw us closer
    to our creator. Following the King of Kings is wonderful.


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