A few weeks ago, I got the opportunity to go to Forward Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. If you’re not familiar with it, it is a weekend for youth (although plenty of adults come along as leaders) with the goal of empowering us to grow deeper in our passion for God and to step into the powerful calling He has for us. If you want a glimpse of what we experienced, check out this quick recap video here.
One of the speakers said it perfectly. That it’s more than a conference- it’s a movement. The experience changes your life and enlarges your heart to share that experience with other people. Each year they bring in big speakers and artists, and they always have something incredible to share.
2017 was my second year going, and I had an incredible time! One of my favorite things about it is the community aspect of Forward. You feel so connected with everyone there, because we were all experiencing the same powerful moments.
It didn’t matter what denomination you came from, we were all united together in one arena to worship the Father. And that’s what really matters. That we connect with God’s heart, and in those moments catch His heart for others.
I’m still processing it because the entire weekend I experienced what I’m referring to as “wisdom overload.” From the beautifully crafted anthems from the bands who led us in worship, to the profound and honest words brought to us by the speakers. It was such a powerful weekend!
I want to share a couple things with you that stuck in my heart from the conference. So this is a roundup of favorite bits and lessons from that weekend.
1. It’s okay to be broken in worship.
The following thoughts for this point aren’t from a message I heard at the conference. This is more of a personal revelation that I experienced there.
During Bethel’s worship set, I had a moment where I was hit with this realization, so I had to sit down and capture what was going on in my heart in writing.
One of the songs Bethel played at the conference called No Longer Slaves puts the way God uses music in our lives perfectly:
“You unravel me with a melody.”
We’re all in layers, and God uses moments in worship to peel back the layers of fear and shame in our hearts to breath His healing power into them. He rides in on a melody and dissolves our fears in His kindness.
It’s tempting to stuff down the emotions in those moments rather than deal with them. (It comes back to that whole vulnerablity thing.)
But it’s important to allow yourself to process brokenness so you can find healing in the only one who can give it to you. And the only way you can get to that healing is by allowing yourself to be broken.
It’s okay to feel emotionally unraveled in worship. It’s God excavating the fear and shame in your life. You don’t have to be ashamed of being a mess. Surrender to the process of becoming undone before the Lord. Embrace what God is doing in your heart in the moment, even if it’s messy.
This is a lesson I’ve been learning myself. Embracing complete and total vulnerability before God in worship isn’t always easy at first, but it grows a stunning intimacy between you and Him.
2. Don’t miss your calling because you waited in the training room too long- get out and jump into your calling!
Ben Prescott talked about the uncommon call that God has placed over your life.
He shared a story about how when he was preparing to go skydiving, he asked the instructor all kinds of questions- including when they were going to practice pulling the parachute chord.
The instructor told him that he wouldn’t practice that part. He said that you have to just jump.
Ben Prescott said that as Christians we often stand back and miss our calling, because we’re stuck in the training room asking endless questions, when God just wants us to trust Him and jump!
We want God to give us the big picture and tell us exactly how it’s going to go. We say, “God, if you show, I’ll go.” but God says, “If you go, I’ll show.”
Ben said, “There is a call upon your life that is so far beyond your gifting and natural ability that you can’t accomplish it in the natural. You need a supernatural God to touch you, and equip you to do what He has called you to do.”
The word “go” means “to be removed”. God is not just calling you to something- but from something. He’s calling you to leave what’s comfortable.
3. Shame is more about who you could be, than who you have been.
Christine Caine shared an amazing message on the power of shame.
She talked about how Satan uses shame to try to shut you down spiritually.
She said the enemy trys to shame you in areas of future strength. He seeks to shut down with shame that which he is intimidated by!
He will attack you with shame in areas where God wants to use you in. He uses your past to try to shut down your future, because he doesn’t have one!
4. When you step out in obedience, the Holy Spirit always fills the gap.
We all have limitations. We all have areas we don’t feel qualified in. But God reminded me that weekend that whatever I feel like I’m lacking, He makes up for.
He’s not asking for you to be perfectly qualified – that part is His job- obedience is yours!
He’s not looking for perfection, just a willing heart. When you are willing to step out in obedience to what God is calling you to do, He will always be faithful to make up the gap.
5. God doesn’t need you…He wants you!
Joel Houston told the story of a time when he lost his voice and was unable to lead worship for an event that he was normally always heavily involved in the planning and process of.
But despite not being on stage, he had the best experience worshipping that he’d had in a long time. Even though he wasn’t leading worship and had no part in the events planning at all. As he was worshipping, he heard the Holy Spirit say to him, “I don’t need you…I want you!”
It’s humbling that God would give us a part to play in His beautiful story. God wants YOU! The broken you. The unqualified you. The not put together you. He wants to partner with you in your imperfect state, to make an impact on this world for His glory.
6. Satan will always try to undermine the character of God.
He did it all the way back in Genesis in the garden of Eden. Christine Caine said that if we believe God is good, than we’ll obey Him. The devil doesn’t want that. So he tries to get you to doubt God’s goodness.
He wants you to think that God is keeping something from you!
Satan sold Adam and Eve the lie that God didn’t want them to be like Him. But here’s the truth: God does want us to be like Him. Adam and Eve were already created in God’s image! (Genesis 1:27 and 9:6, points to this.)
The serpent tricked Eve into giving up what she already had, by telling her that something was missing. In truth, Eve lacked no good thing. And neither do we.
7. Walls of resistance cannot stand when you put on your garment of praise!
Jentezen Franklin talked about the power of praise. He said praise is more than noise- it brings a manifestation of God’s presence and power!
He shared how just as in Joshua 6:20, a shout of praise caused the walls of the city of Jericho to fall, walls still fall when God’s people shout and praise!
At Forward, we had a bit of an anthem in the song Do It Again by Elevation Worship. It talks about choosing to trust in the faithfulness of God when you encounter spiritual roadblocks. The chorus ties in really well with Jentezen’s message:
“I’ve seen You move, You move the mountains
And I believe, I’ll see You do it again
You made a way, where there was no way
And I believe, I’ll see You do it again.”
So when you find yourself face-to-face with an obstacle that looks insurmountable, a spirit of praise will get you through.
“The enemy can’t keep you out of your calling, because the walls are going to fall when you shout!” – Jentezen Franklin
8. Know that God gives purpose to it all.
Apart from Him, nothing really matters. But God gives purpose to even the pain. He doesn’t make tragedy happen, but He redeems everything and can make even the scars serve a purpose.
Not even Jesus is without scars. He endured unspeakable pain at the cross- and that was for a purpose. To save us. And to make every pain and struggle that you’ve endured serve a purpose. Joel Houston said:
“Just know that God is using every step, every curve, every season, every moment, every scar, every battle, every heartbreak, every disappointment, every little thing- to tell a better story through your life, of who He is.”
So allow yourself to be broken,
jump into your calling,
shake the shame,
step out in obedience,
realize God wants your involvement,
praise Him in the struggle,
and remember that He is always good!
Live loved, friends!