I’ve tried to fit the mold. I’ve led regular worship nights in my home, listened to contemporary Christian music over and over, majored in student ministry in college, and practiced every thing I could think of to hear the voice of God, or at least mimic those around me who seemed to hear the voice of God clearly all the time.
And I wouldn’t say that I was always faking it. I mean, sometimes I was, but I was earnestly trying to be like all the Christians around me who seemed to be awesome at getting lost in worship and having two hour devotionals on the daily and read Wild at Heart once a year. Because that’s what I thought Christianity was, mostly—being like other Christians.
But it’s not. And thank God, because while all of those things are decidedly good things, I often find myself doing them for the wrong reasons. I used to think those were the only ways to really connect with God, and that was worrisome, because some of those things just didn’t seem to work as well for me as they did for other Christians.
Sure I like music, but I don’t often get lost in musical worship, at least not any more than I get caught up in the songs at any good concert. And games are cool, but I can’t get down with the absurdity of most Youth Group icebreakers. And call me crazy but I don’t connect with the book Wild at Heart.
There is merit in all those things—and obviously our emotions (or lack thereof) in worship shouldn’t completely dictate our relationship with God—but I’ve come to realize that things like worship music and fellowship and popular devotionals aren’t the only ways to connect with God.
Hearing God in Different Places
I find Jesus in academic work. I find Him in research and questions. I connect with God when I wrestle with logic. I regularly thank Him that He created me to try to find different answers to problems and see situations differently than those around me.
Sometimes I feel like I am worshipping deeply when I am talking to people about boring stuff, or taboo stuff, or anything really. I find the joy and peace of Jesus when I work with college students and help them find jobs, or when I help them believe in themselves.
Some people hear the voice of God when they run. Others worship deeply by playing with their children. We have to get used to the idea that there are a million different ways to spend time with God, to hear His voice, to draw near to Him. As the millennial generation cultivates new style and inculpates it into the way we “do church,” new trends develop in Christian culture as they do in any culture. We can’t forget that some people won’t like the new Hillsong album or connect with the way your church, small group or community fellowships. We must be careful not to make those people feel “less Christian” or outside of the community because they connect with God differently.
I’m not saying that our faith and worship should be centered only on things we love and that make us feel good. Discipline, liturgy and tradition are important. What I am saying is that God created us to function differently, so we have to stop preaching “the body of Christ” while practicing “everyone should be a mouth.” It hurts the Church and it hurts the world.
Experiencing God in New Ways
Figuring this out has the potential to help us grow in new ways, too. Because an existential crisis—the times in which you question everything and wonder about faith and deeds and the origin of time and anything else—can be just as important to your spiritual development as your quiet time devotional.
The time you spend researching and developing a program to help first generation college students get jobs can be just as godly as a youth pastor mentoring high school students. Meticulously planning out your day so that you can maximize your time with your children and still get all your errands done before going to work can be a process that fosters the peace of God.
The questions, struggles, research, plans and other things we participate in are important. They are important to us, but also to others and to Jesus. Embracing this truth, allowing ourselves to worship through some of the pieces of our lives that seem outside the scope of typical “church stuff” can help us experience God in ways we never have. It can also help us to walk out of the frustration of not “fitting in” with the typical methods of worship.
Embrace Our Differences
Overall, what I am saying is that God created us, so let’s learn how to better love Him and love others through our particular passions and gifts. Also, let’s learn how to stop judging people for things they shouldn’t be judged for, like how well they pursue God the way everyone else does. There will always be moral imperatives tied closely to following Jesus.
There will always be disciplines and aspects of life that should be evident in every Christian, and I pray we are always getting better at living those out. But there should also always be lots of things that are different, obviously different, uncomfortably different about people who go to church.
Maybe one day the repetition of “set a fire down in my soul” will be the thing that helps me hear the voice of God. For now, I will continue singing, but I enjoy hearing Him and feeling Him when I read about trends of the millennial generation in college and when I am honest with Him about my thoughts and questions. When do you hear His voice?
Jimmy Fabrizio is a husband, father and writer who currently works at the University of Pittsburgh. He has published articles on vocation, work, and sexual identity, and writes on insecurity and identity on his personal blog.