PIETERMARITZBURG, South Africa (Mennonite Mission Network) -- I have worshipped in Pentecostal churches for the last 10 years, but my roots are deeply set in calm Mennonite expression. At times, those roots still get in the way of my appreciation of more enthusiastic worship – especially the jumping.
For the past month, my family and I have been loving worship at Breakthru Church International, a denomination that Mennonites relate to in Pietermaritzburg. The kids came out of the first service saying, "Wow, that was a great worship service!" Nathan, our 12-year-old, participated in all of two services and part of a third that day, for a total of five hours in church. The whole family is excited about being rooted in a place where worship is … well, so worshipful.
Christine and Phil Lindell Detweiler, with their three children, arrived in South Africa in December 2005 to begin a partnership ministry involving Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission, Mennonite Church Canada Witness, Mennonite Mission Network and South African churches and agencies.
The Lindell Detweiler family has served as church-based community development workers with Mennonite Mission Network and Mennonite Board of Missions in West African countries since 1991. They are members of Pleasant View Mennonite Church in Goshen, Ind.
But there is one thing that I just can't get used to – jumping has liturgical value at Breakthru. Raising hands, swaying to the music and singing to a band that is so loud I can't even hear myself sing – these are all things that I can not only tolerate, but actually find worshipful. But jumping? I am beginning to think that it might take a miracle for me to appreciate it.
However, I got a slightly different perspective when I met with a cell group recently. Breakthru’s pastor, Russell Toohey, and I gathered with 10 other men for an evening of socializing. Pastor Russell asked each person to share about a significant event that changed them, either positively or negatively, during their teenage years.
One man said his father worked far from home and was absent seven straight years during this time in his life. The kids did odd jobs to support the family, and his mother alone embodied the concept of "parents."
A second man shared how he never really had any family and was on his own at a young age. Sometimes he was so sick he thought he would die. Now, he sees that the Lord saved him for a purpose.
Brothers of a third man neglected his father’s dying wishes and squabbled over the family home. Infighting tore the family apart.
An older church woman had seduced a fourth man when he was a boy attending church camp. His first sexual encounter occurred in the church building and marked his life negatively for years.
The mother of a fifth man brought him into this world when she was 13 years old. His grandmother, who raised him, died when he was a teenager. He felt lost, not knowing how to carry on. He ended up working as a bouncer in a nightclub. Here, he learned to know the sixth person in the cell group, who was also a bouncer in the same club.
The only other man in the group (apart from Pastor Russell and me) who had grown up with two parents talked of the pain his alcoholic father inflicted during his formative years.
The eighth member of the circle had been unemployed for a number of years. He and his family were being evicted once again from their home and didn't know how they would make it with their two children. They had spent some time living in their car but had to sell the car for cash.
As I listened to these stories, I wept inside.
Yet, at the same time, a number of the men talked eloquently about the church as a place where they finally were able to find family again. Though most of these men had only come into the church a few months before, the church had already become not only the place where they met Jesus, but also the people that filled a family-sized void in their lives. Meeting Jesus had brought them hope. Living with Jesus' people gave them strength to face tomorrow with all its uncertainties.
Then it dawned on me, "Man, that's something worth jumping about!"
I have to admit, I might not be any more excited about jumping in church next Sunday than I was last week, but that cell group meeting helped me to see liturgical jumping in a different light.
Who knows? If I think of these guys or worship beside one of them some Sunday morning, I might even find both of my feet off the ground at the same time! Our God certainly can still work miracles. We all are living proof of that, aren't we?
So why not jump for joy?