When I was about 14, I had this friend and she went to a youth group and loved it, and she would invite all of our friends.
I think it was maybe eight months of her repeatedly just inviting me saying, "Hey Mitch, would you like to come to youth this week?" I wasn't keen, I was pretty anti it. I had come up with all these different reasons, theological disagreements and scientific disagreements as to why God couldn't exist, and how Jesus was a fake person and all this stuff. I was real anti-God.
I guess her persistence wore me down and eventually one lunchtime she said, "Hey Mitch, do you want to come to youth this Friday? It's going to be really cool." And I was like, "Oh fine. Yeah, I'll come along just this once."
I showed up and they went into a time of worship. I had started playing music a couple of years before that. So, being a musician myself, I was pretty judgemental, thinking the music was kind of average.
Later on in life, talking to the two people who were in the worship team that night, they said, "Man, that was the worst night of worship ever, it was so hard. We just had everyone bail and so it was just the two of us."
Worship started and it was kind of average. There wasn't really any atmosphere in the room, and it wasn't exciting. I started to notice that one by one, people were lifting their hands, people were singing, people were into it, people were going for it. I remember looking around and it instantly broke down a lot of the lies that I had about God, all the protests I had against God in my mind, because these people thought God was genuinely real. They were singing like He's in the room.
Instantly all of my ideas about God changed.
I thought, maybe God is real. Maybe these guys had something super real. Whatever it is, I think I want it.
At that point in time as a 14 year old, all I knew about Christianity was: you weren't supposed to get drunk, you weren't meant to do drugs, you had to use clean language and you weren't allowed to have sex before marriage. That's what I thought being a Christian was. It was just these four rules.
I went away after that night and thought what these people had was super genuine. It seemed really incredible and I think I want that. What I thought being a Christian meant was that I've got to say no to those other four things. So I thought about it over the weekend and I came to a conclusion.
There was no emotion, there was no deep encounter with God, I didn't hear God's voice, I didn't have any special moment. More than anything, I came to the conclusion that whatever those people had seemed so real and so genuine that I wanted it. I was willing to give up whatever I had, to give up whatever opportunities I had, to pursue that.
So I made my decision and it wasn't until a couple of weeks afterwards that I had my first encounter with God. I had one of those moments where I had the emotional connection and God really came into my life. It wasn't like my earlier intellectual decision. It came out of me deciding, hey, I want to follow God, I want to give Him my life.
I look back at those rules and I'm so glad that I followed them because they were actually a real blessing to my life.
Following those things and looking back, if I knew then what having a relationship with God would have been like, if I'd actually known what those people who were in the room worshiping had in that moment, I don't think it would have taken me all weekend to decide.
It's way better than I thought it could have been.