Thursday, January 24, 2013

Reflections from Africa: Watchnight Worship

On Monday, December 31, 2012, I had the pleasure of preaching at the Church of Pentecost, Tessano  Branch, in Accra, Ghana. The Pastor, Rev. Samuel Appiah, was gracious and opened his pulpit to me to declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was amazing on so many levels. First, there were about 500 people present--probably the largest "audience" I've preached to (praise God at least six people gave their lives to Christ at the end of the service). Second, it was a joint Twi/English service, so I preached with an interpreter. It was a beautiful dance demanding that I slow down and carefully chose the words I would use. My interpreter was my brother in law Frank--an elder in the church and seasoned interpreter, so thankfully he was used to my pace and accent when speaking. Third, I was nervous as I-don't-know-what, which made my ripe for the Holy Spirit. For the first time, ever, I didn't rely on my manuscript to get me through. I preached what I had prepared, but it was so deep in me that I didn't need the manuscript. I now know what it means to preach from the overflow. As Scripture says, the Holy Spirit will bring things to your remembrance (Of course, you have to know them first, which is why study is so important). All in all, I am so grateful to God for the opportunity. And in my usual silliness, leading up to the preaching I was hearing the words of Rob Base echo in my head, "I'm not internationally known, but I'm known to rock a microphone..." Well, now I can say that I am internationally known!

Beyond my personal experience, I was in awe of the church, and her people. Here are some thoughts about that aspect of the experience:

1) This is a praying church. For real. Service began at 7:30pm and didn't end until about 1:30. There was prayer from about 9:00 to 10:30, and maybe even before (we arrived late because of baby girl's sleep schedule). Then, after preaching, we prayed from 11:30 until after the turn of the new year. And then, there was more prayer. I was encouraged by the fervor and spirit with which the people approached the throne of grace. While there was a leader, the people were praying aloud. It was true corporate prayer. They were not shy, nor concerned about their neighbors hearing them, but they were boldly seeking God for themselves, their families, the church, and their nation. It was exciting and inspiring. But I was convicted about our (uh-oh) harried and hurried prayers in worship here in the U.S. We need a great prayer revival our churches!

2)This is a praising church. Prior to Watchnight, we had worshiped twice at this church. In all of the services there is time for testimony. In this church there is no twisting of arms to get people to testify to the goodness of God in their lives. In fact, one service the testimonies were so many that they had to cut it short in order to move worship along. Here were God's people, in God's house, standing to declare God's mighty acts! And they didn't just speak their testimonies. Almost everyone who spoke, sang a song in praise to God. Hallelujah! In addition to testimony time, I was so amped by the victory chant and wave that took place after we prayed in the New Year. There we were, having made it to 2013, excited about the God awaited possibilities of a New Year waving white hankies (or burp cloths, lol) and shouting and dancing. It was a somatic living out of the Psalms.

3)This is a perceptive church. As I stood and declared the Word of God, the many of the people sat attentively listening. Some were leaning in to grab hold of the word. Others were leaned back letting the word wash over them. And it was clear that they took the Scripture seriously to not only be hearers of the word, but also doers of the word. After the service was over I had people coming up to me explaining how it was a timely word and how they would apply it in their lives.

That's it for me...I'll let the pictures speak(they are in no particular order and aren't captioned), mostly because Baby Girl is stirring and naptime is just about over...

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