Of course, being our very first time with almost all of our equipment, we had several "technical difficulties." For starters, our audio board wasn't working for the first 30 minutes we had it out, so our band was waiting to rehearse with no sound. Then one of our TVs stopped working and when we tested the cables, we found that one of the HMDI cables we were using was defective. There was definitely that moment of, "Well, God, I'm not sure what you're up to, but we really need you to show up." Eventually the audio kicked on and we decided to go to one TV. Ideal? No. But we made it work.
Once we got the ball rolling on the rehearsal, we got our guest welcome area set up (we call it the "Next Steps" area) and started and began to wait for our start time. After the band was finished rehearsing and some more of our volunteers arrived, we pulled everyone together to talk through the morning, pray, and go to our positions. At that point, it was just a matter of making guests feel welcome and keeping some big smiles on.
During the minutes leading up to the start of the service I met many new people who I had never seen before. I was so excited to see so many new faces! The service went really well. Sarah led worship and the band did such a good job setting the pace and giving her all the tools she would need to succeed. Our MC (Nathan) welcomed guests, so when I got up to begin the message, I felt like the audience had been well prepared for what we would talk about.
Our series right now is Making Room for Life, and that morning we talked about "Making Room for God," the big rock of life that tends to get crowded out of our lives if we aren't careful. The challenge was to make more time for both (a) personal time with God and (b) public celebration of God with others. In other words, if we would spend more time in Bible reading and prayer when we're on our own, and really commit to a public worship gathering on Sundays, we would see some significant strides. It might seem old school and a little traditional, but can seriously make a huge difference in our lives.
After all, some of us might've gotten tired of church, burned out on religion, or lost hope in what God has to offer, but most of us if we're honest will admit that we've not really given God a chance to make the changes in us that need to happen. In fact, if we've been a Christ follower for very long, many times we can look back on our lives at the longest stretches of loneliness and isolation and see a period of time when we either didn't spend time with God on our own, were disconnected from a local church, or both. With all of its inconsistency, personal time with God creates the greatest level of intimacy. And with all of its flaws and messiness, gathering with other believers will always be the greatest means of authentic community and public worship.
So, that's what we talked about. At the end of our service, we asked everyone to lay rocks at a cross with the name of something that had been standing between them and God. The challenge was to lay the rock face down to symbolize how laying our brokenness at the cross wipes it out and makes the challenges of life powerless against the hope of Christ. Over 50 people responded to this challenge. It was beautiful.
After our team packed up the items from the Community Center and went home, we were exhausted yet blown away by all that God did. We are awed by God's faithfulness in spite of our inadequacy.