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God Out Of The Box

Newday – the Newfrontiers youth camp – is a rather spectacular monster. I’m sure those who have been going for years have seen it grow and stayed fairly comfortable on the whole thing, but for those of us that turned up to the Norfolk Showground for the first time (or the second time in my case) last summer, it’s an overwhelming, nerve-wracking experience. There is something going on absolutely everywhere, and most of it is pretty bombastic. There are cafés, dodgems, a bucking bronco and a variety of other things to catch the eye on the concourse, but looming over it all is the Big Top. It’s pretty easy to lose sight of everything else when that massive blue tent comes into view for the first time. It’s also pretty easy to get a bit Old Covenant on the whole thing and see it as the Tabernacle, where one goes to meet with God.

This year, God taught me a lesson on that score. I served on the Café Froth team, serving tea, coffee and endless cold drinks to many of the servers and speakers, and I instinctively wanted to rebel at my shifts in case I missed God in the Big Top. It may sound ridiculous, but it’s an easy thing to slip into. It’s something I see in friends (and indeed myself) regularly when serving at church. We can revert to this “God in a box” attitude that is one of the things Christ died to change. We can forget that the curtain was torn down, that we don’t have to step out of the everyday into some special ‘holy place’ in order to worship God, and at the start of the week I absolutely did forget that.

Thankfully, with encouragement from our wonderful leaders, my team mates and I decided to try and look at our time there as a ministry, as well as worship. To be more specific, we decided to do some treasure hunting. If you’ve not come across treasure hunting, it’s spending time in prayer and asking God for descriptions and words to show us particular people. It could be hair colour, a name, an item of clothing, whatever. Suitably briefed, you go looking for those people. This was the best kind of treasure hunting as the people came to us.

I’d love to tell you we set people free, saw people saved and someone regrew an arm, but that didn’t happen. Indeed, none of my hunting was successful (nervously approaching a guy, asking if the name Luke meant anything special to him and being told no was a particular highlight). But what did happen is that other people on my team found their ‘treasure’ and were able to minister to and pray for individuals. It was such an encouragement to all involved to further realise we didn’t need to be in the meeting to be with God. The team prayed for people who were struggling, needed prayer and needed God, and much to their surprise, they found him not in the Big Top, but in a café.

It turns out, when He says He is everywhere, He means everywhere. It turns out that spending time serving, no matter how mundane, doesn’t affect our time with him. It turns out that he doesn’t consider “washing feet”, as Jesus called us to do, a booby prize that leaves us without him. Now, how I think about serving on Sundays has been changed. It’s not a burden that takes me away from His presence, but an opportunity to delve even further into it, just in a different way.