It is not often that I get to be a visitor and just another saint in the congregation when I go to church. I am a pastor and as such, I am usually responsible for seeking God and putting together what we hope God will use to minister to those who come to Calvary Chapel. These are some of the things I noticed as I entered into the service. First of all it was a little warm in the room (which may have been more due to me being in a sweater - as I always am this time of year - rather than due to the heat being turned too high). Nevertheless, I was very warm in the services. As we began to sing, I only knew one of the four songs we sang. Since I don’t honestly have a style I prefer in church, I didn’t mind the style of the music, but I only knew the song, “10,000 Reasons” during the set. As they did the set of music I could tell that the mix of the sound made it difficult to hear the guitars playing. Then the pastor came up and shared with us from Acts 12. He was young - about 33-35 - and at times he was a little more relevant than reverent for my personal tastes. I did notice these things for a moment or two as I attended the services - but only for a moment.
Now, from the paragraph above it sounds like I had plenty to complain about in this service. I did notice these things because - well because I am a pastor and I tend to notice such things every week if they happen in the services that I lead. But, as I said earlier, I only noticed these things briefly. The reason for this is because something else was dominating my mind, thinking, and attitude that morning. You see, when Sherie and I left for church that morning it was with the intent of experiencing God at the services we we're going to attend. That was my longing as I went to church. I don’t get to go to church and not be responsible for the service. Therefore what I wanted more than anything else was to experience and meet with God. Let me explain to you the way I truly experienced the services outside of a few things I noticed for a moment.
I met friendly people who greeted me and took joy in meeting other saints who knew Jesus and wanted to join with me in seeking the face and heart of God. As we began the worship through music I enjoyed reading the song lyrics which blessed my heart - and I attempted to sing them when I could. I thoroughly enjoyed singing the song “10,000 Reasons” to the Lord with all my heart. I also thought about asking the praise leader where they got their music because it evidently was from a source I didn’t know and might be able to benefit from in the future. When I couldn’t sing due to not knowing the songs, I loved listening to the saints singing to the Lord and entered into their worship as I read along from the words projected on the screen. As the pastor spoke I listened to the Word of God taught - and was blessed greatly as God spoke to me from the Word. There were so many little nugget of truth that I enjoyed very much. During the invitation I was seated praying because of what God had revealed to me that morning. He was working mightily in my heart through what had been shared - and honestly - through some things He brought up in my heart at that time. After the service I stood with Elisha and met some of the people he knew - and loved getting to see Sweat (who is on staff at MTSU with Campus Outreach) for the first time in a long time. I walked away from the service having been truly blessed.
Now, from what I’ve written today I want to share something with all of you. It would have been the easiest thing to allow all that I didn’t personally like about the service to dominate my mind. I could have gone to lunch with my family grousing about how the temp was off - and they didn’t play enough or played too many songs I didn’t like. I could have complained about what I didn’t like about the pastor’s style. Here is why I didn’t. To be perfectly honest with you - I didn’t go to church that morning to see the praise team - or to sing my favorite songs. I didn’t go to make sure that the grounds team kept the auditorium at a good temperature (which being defined means a temperature I like). I didn’t even go to listen to the pastor - or hear a sermon that was put together in a biblically sound but wonderfully creative way. I went to meet with God - to seek His face - to spend time with Him among the saints of God. I went to hear what He had to say - to sing to and adore Him. I went to know His heart and His Word. AND - I went to meet with a group of imperfect saints - who have an imperfect grounds team - an imperfect praise team - an imperfect sound person - an imperfect pastor - and to marvel that God could take all these imperfect people - and minister in a perfect way that my heart needed on November 29th in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. And do you know what happened? I was blessed so very much!
Precious saints of God . . . please hear me. I hope to labor to bring a service where the temperature is right - where we play music that glorifies and honors God - where we mix sound so that you can hear all the various instruments and voices properly - where we sing songs we know and can actively participate in singing - where your pastor labors in study and prayer so that I bring as close to what God wants to be said as is possible on this earth. But - even if we brought you the perfect service every week (which I hope we can all honestly admit is not the case - especially that whole pastor part at the end) - that is not what will bless you. If you come expecting God - wanting Him - and desiring that He speak to you (albeit with imperfect instruments), you will experience Him and be wonderfully blessed. But if you are coming to church wanting the perfect church experience - you will go home most weeks disappointed. Let’s come this and every Sunday seeking the face of God! Let’s come with a longing to both see and hear Him. Let’s come knowing that we will be attending an imperfect church with imperfect leaders and imperfect people - BUT - let’s come knowing that our perfect and glorious God can use all of it to speak - to minister - to bless - and to draw us into His wonderful work in our hearts. And if anything - let’s glory in the fact that He does not need everything to be perfect in order to bless us weekly. We will still labor to offer Him something worthy of His glory every week - I can promise you that the hearts of those who lead us weekly beat in that way. But - let’s come to experience Him!