A few weeks ago my church got word that we will most likely lose our building. This means we’ll give up our Historic Church (“the” Falls Church, after which the city was named), our offices, classrooms, meeting space, fellowship space, and Main Sanctuary (built in 1992, holds 900 people, 3 services per weekend) and all property acquired prior to January 30th, 2007, to the Episcopal Church (from whom we separated five years ago).
You would think that on Sunday mornings the congregation would be fearful, anxious, discouraged, or downcast. Not so. Since the ruling, our times of worship have been vibrant, heartfelt, and Christ-exalting. I haven’t seen this much freedom in worship in my 7 ½ years here.
We know we have difficult days ahead. The prospect of losing our campus and our property, relocating to temporary worship and office space, and perhaps building a new building is exciting but also daunting. I’m sure the excitement might wane after a few months (years) of not having a permanent space. Many of you reading this blog deal with this every week and I now have a new appreciation for you.
But this time of uncertainty (and others that our congregation has weathered over the years) has reminded me of the power of worship in the midst of trials. The words on the screen now become the cries of our hearts. The Jesus about whom we’re singing is now our very present help in time of trouble. The Gospel that we’re declaring is now our common assurance and defense. The Holy Spirit in whom we believe is now actively pointing us to Jesus and giving us peace.
Rahm Emmanuel, a former congressman from Illinois, White House Chief of Staff, now the mayor of Chicago, and an infamously shrewd politician is notorious for his statement, “never let a good crisis go to waste”. This is the unspoken creed of most politicians.
Overlooking the sneakiness of that statement, I see a morsel of truth and a lesson for worship leaders who serve churches experiencing crises or trials. Don’t let a time of trial go to waste. It is an opportunity for your congregation to experience so much more of the power of worship to point us to the glory of God in Jesus Christ. This can be taught, but it takes a while. In the midst of trials it can be caught, and this doesn’t take as long.
I’m not suggesting that you pray for a crisis for your church so that they can grow in worship. It’s also probably not a good idea to covertly create one.
But when trials come to your congregation (and they will), don’t pick phony triumphalistic songs, or pull back and treat Sunday mornings like they’re funerals, or ignore the elephant in the room. Follow Rahm Emmanuel’s advice to “never let a good crisis go to waste”. The power of worship in the midst of trials to point individuals and a congregation to Jesus can transform your church’s time of singing.
And whether we stay in this building or worship in a barn, we’ll keep exalting Jesus higher and higher. The power is in his name, not in our trappings.