Thoughts on tough people….
My phone began to go crazy on a recent Sunday morning. I staggered awake in the NYC hotel room that my wife and I were at wondering who would be calling me on this rare Sunday off already dreading who it might be. On the other end were texts and calls from our worship team telling me that we had no power in our church.
I imagine anyone who is in the position of having a building whether it be a business, school, church or any other place for public gatherings can imagine my reaction. To say I was filled with faith would be laughable. My stress level leapt off the charts as I wondered how to fix the problem. Not only were we without power but I was 250 miles away from home with no idea how to fix the problem.
I called my associate pastor and we started talking solutions. The building was only 37 degrees and even if the power was restored there was no way to get the heat up in time for our morning service. The thought was expressed to cancel service but I couldn’t see doing that because of logistics and also because we just don’t do that in Syracuse.
I told them to push through. Do the best they could. Figure out a way to have a short meeting and let the people go. I continued getting ready as we were expected in service in Queens and there was nothing I could, do but my heart was heavy and I was worried.
A strange thing began happening several hours later. Both my wife’s and my phone began to light up with wonderful messages. Although some people decided to head home a large group stayed. With no power, music or heat they did what Christian do. They worshipped.
One text said it was the most powerful worship service they had been to in along time. Another told me that we have an amazing church. I was told later that a man who had attempted suicide earlier that week was there and he was ministered to. In the middle of chaos God showed up.
Later that evening as I drove home I felt God speaking to me. On this day that had started with the potential for a disaster something beautiful had happened. Instead of coming home to an uncertain week I was coming home to a church that I believe took a giant step forward in its spiritual maturity.
In our modern church culture we have grown use to certain levels of comfort and amenities. The seats have to be comfortable. The lighting has to be just right to set the mood for worship. The message can only go 25 minutes. The music has to be modern and played by the best musicians that in some cases money can buy. When did this become the picture of church?
The New Testament church of the Book of Acts is about as close to the American church as an elephant is to a mouse. They met in homes. They were under constant persecution and fear of death. I doubt there was a praise and worship band and in one case the apostle Paul spoke all night long. Yet if we look at their effectiveness in changing their world compared to what we are doing today sadly there is little comparison.
Miracles, signs and wonders and countless conversions to Christ followed them from city to city. For many of us today if a couple of people are saved a year we call it revival. What has happened to us? Maybe we have to start with the Gospel. It is the only thing that saves and it seems to be in short supply in the American church. This great message of salvation by giving your whole life to Christ is hardly heard. How many messages will be preached this week that cater to living comfortably? How many services will be so programmed that the intrusion of the Holy Spirit is unfathomable? How many Christians, if faced with any opposition, will simply stay home? We have gotten soft and it’s killing us from the inside out.
The heritage of the church of Jesus Christ is built on the backs of tough people. From the blood of martyrs across too many numerous countries to count to the circuit preachers who rode horseback from town to town the Good News has cost something of those who believe. The reward of eternal life in glory has always been enough for those who have found their strength and courage in the Lord. These were the generations who understood they were to serve God not expect God to serve them. They are the history makers we can only dream of being.
Don’t get me wrong. I pray that we never have a repeat of last Sunday again. I like heat and power is a good thing. That said, my church learned something about themselves last week. They learned they have the toughness of our spiritual fathers in their blood. They learned that worship in a hard place can sometimes be the best worship of all.
I am privileged to be their pastor. Their sacrifice has called me to a higher place. I can’t help but feel that in heaven this Sunday their heavenly father basked in their worship in a special way and He took particular interest in petitions they brought before Him. They could have just stayed home. Instead they worshipped through the difficulties just like Christians have done since the church started…tough people…God people.