Sometimes God just does something so unexpected that you can’t help but be in awe and very often that has to do with a community called church.
Two nights ago my girlfriend and I went for a spontaneous dinner at a place we hadn’t been to in a long time, near the city centre. We chose a table in a comfortable section that’s a little bit apart from the rest of the restaurant – nice and intimate. A couple, probably in their mid-fourties, came and settled at the table next to us and we soon started chatting. Turned out he was a former government official in Zambia who’d later had an encounter with God, became a reverend and started a ministry in Pretoria. His wife was a South African executive in a big company. We just started talking about relationships and they shared how they’d met, got married three months ago and what their lives had looked like before that.
When my girlfriend and I prayed over our food, said ‘Amen’ and opened our eyes, they sat there with bowed heads and closed eyes. Immediately the conversation turned to God, personal faith, our relationships with him and how he’d impacted ours lives. It was just so cool to hear from people, who’d obviously grown up very differently from us, how they’d seen God work in their lives. Some of it was very encouraging, some of it just made me laugh as I heard God speaking to me through them about things that had been on my mind for a long time. It was such a special setting and vibe, it was clear that God was there.
This talking and trying to eat in between carried on for more than one and a half hours and the couple that had sat in the one corner had long since left, when the business-looking guy who’d enjoyed his coffee in the other corner, came up to our tables. He said, “I’ve been listening to what you’ve been saying and God’s really speaking to me”. We invited him to sit down and he told us that he was from Cameroon, that he and his wife lived in Johannesburg and that she was at some function at the American embassy across the road. He shared the things that were mulling around in his head and how what he’d overheard really spoke to him. Another hour of intense conversation with encouragement, prophesying and prayer ensued. We exchanged phone numbers and promised to keep praying for each other.
As we walked out, the Zambian reverend just repeated, “Tonight is a special night” and I couldn’t agree more. I could write in much more detail what we spoke about, but I still need to get my head around it. My girlfriend and I left almost bewildered by everything we’d heard and just the way God had brought such different people together. I’ve often asked myself what church is. I think we’ve often made it about a building, a timetable, a project, a clique… That night was just about Him. It was clear to me once again that God loves it when we come together in HIS name. The reverend never got a chance to touch his food. As he said, “this (our being-together) is more important now”. It was fresh, real and, like we all agreed, anointed.
God really spoke to me at so many levels and I won’t get into them all now. One of the ones that hit me really hard was that I really need to give believers the benefit of the doubt. Generally, when someone expresses their faith in a certain way – tone of voice, expressions, and energy – I put them in a box and label it “that type of Christian”. But here we were, very different cultures and expressions and we were all in love with the same Jesus. It really made me understand again that God loves me so incredibly deeply and wants the best for me.
And that night, the best was church, with a glass of red whine and Greek salad on the side.