I visited a small to medium size church about a half hour from my home on August 12th. I visited as guest preacher. It is a group that began in a school and bought a church building not long ago.
I got there 15 minutes before service time, and met with some of the leaders to touch on some final details and to set up my dirty cup props. Showing my traditionalism, I was at first thrown by the lack of a pulpit to place them on. But I adapted quickly.
This was a wonderfully casual church situation.They had coffee out and available before the service, and many were getting a cup and taking it with them to their seats. I got one too.
The worship leaders had a prayer a few minutes before the service started. We did this right on stage at the front. I like that. I’ve often wondered why we hide away to pray. A few minutes after the prayer we began singing. The leader gave a brief and warm welcome and led in a set of worship songs. Most of them were not familiar to me, but were simple enough to catch on to quickly. There were three vocalists, two female and one male, and one of the females – the worship leader – also had a regular guitar. The women had a unique vocal style, a higher, airy way of singing that added a sense of intensity. There was also an electric guitar and a fellow on a drum that was more in what I call a bongo style (though the skin was a larger diameter than we might usually think of when Bongo is mentioned) and he could get some good solid thumps out of it for emphasis.
What was interesting and new was how the worship space filled up as we sang. When it started the place was maybe half-full and when the songs were done, it was three quarter full. Those attending, I’d guess about 50 or 60 people, I was thrilled to see later, were predominantly youth. A lot of 20-somethings there. That’s exciting to see and a good sign for the future of this group. It made me a bit nervous too, because I did not know if I could be engaging enough for them.
After the first set of songs, a Psalm was read and we sang again, and then an offering was taken up while the worship leaders sang. I was introduced, and I gave my “Cleaning the Inside” message using the dirty cups illustration. Because there was no pulpit, I made this an opportunity to challenge myself to not look at my notes. I slowly got over my jitters as the congregation was clearly attentive, relating to and even responding to some of what I spoke about. There is a point in this message where I talk about the ‘inspection’ Mothers used to make of the children in the car on the way to church, and I asked if anyone knew what happened if Mom found dirt on the face of a child. Well, a young woman came right up out of her pew and came at me licking her thumb, ready to demonstrate on my face, and the congregation laughed as I made haste to get away from her. So from that I could tell they were ‘into’ what I was saying and were having no trouble being engaged.
It is interesting (maybe only to me) how when I depart from my notes a sermon can take a whole different direction than usual. That happened here too. I just listened to the mp3 of it, which is on their web page. I’m not into self-promotion, and in fact am pretty uncomfortable giving out printed or audio copies of my sermons, so to find it if you’d like to hear it you will have to do some detective work and figure out which church it was. Fact is, when I listen to it, I feel terrible in part, because I think of how I could have said it different or better. But those listening don’t know that, I’ve learned. Mostly only preachers hear their sermons and those of others that way.
We sang one song after the message, and then I was asked to give a blessing and the service was done. Another good Sunday.