Church Plant Memoirs: Switching on the Worshipper
Most of you that do know me, know that I am the church treasurer (among other things) for our NYC church plant, Epiphany. This was a job I neither wanted, nor even considered that I’d be capable of doing. Now, it’s probably a lot simpler job than it would be in some of those more established churches, but it’s still challenging to do all the things needed, especially for a novice like me. Since this coronavirus quarantine became the norm here, The job has become, at least, temporarily easier.
So, with a nearly endless amount of time on my hands due to my job shut down, and a little less treasurer work to do, I needed to find a way to stay somewhat busy. So I dug out some old teachings on Colossians that we never converted to our devotional podcast, and I’ve spent some time redesigning social media logos, banners, podcast artwork and such for the church. I’ve even preached once during this quarantine.
I also involved myself in a portion of the video editing for our online services. Every week, I do some of the little things to make our church video service ready for consumption. I make sure words are there on the screen, so you can read along with the confession of sin or the call to worship, or even join us in singing our selection of worship songs, or just follow along with whatever portion of scripture is being read. I even put the Lord’s Prayer up so you can pray along with pastor at the end of his messages, even though I know most of you have it memorized, I’m sure. I’ve even redesigned the opening and ending of our videos.
I’m glad I can do it, I’m thankful to be able to, but because I’m so involved, this means I see and hear a lot of the service before Sunday morning. I have to review it and make sure all the words are in their proper places. Because of that, I could see how it might just become all too easy to get used to. But, that’s one of the more remarkable things I’ve found throughout this challenging time. I’ve been at my “day job” for 30 years, so I know what a “rut’ feels like. I kind of almost expected it, but it hasn’t happened.
Despite running though the material over and again, and hearing all the different parts of the service in immediate and repetitive succession, when Sunday rolls around, and Pastor Erick begins with that prayer of confession, and I hear those wonderful words of absolution, everything changes. My ears begin to perk up at the call to worship. With the very first song, as I sing aloud from my couch or kitchen table along with my wife, I’m often brought to tears. It’s not work anymore, it’s worship. It’s Christ being given to me-for me. What I’m experiencing on Sunday no longer has anything to do with anything I did to prepare it. It’s now all that Christ did for me, being poured out through the roughly 40-50 minutes on the screen.
It has to be a work of God in me. it must be! To be able to shut down the video editor, the treasurer, the “and other things”, and turn on the parishioner. I don’t quite understand how it happens, but I am grateful.
If you’ve ever served in church in any capacity, you may know what it’s like to get caught up in the importance of the business end of it, and then maybe struggle to enter in as someone who needs the gospel just as much as anyone else, the person who also needs grace and mercy preached to you every week.
One of the best things I ever did when I left my old church, where I was a men’s ministry leader, a food pantry supervisor, an usher, etc… was nothing. I would sit in the new church every week feeling a bit broken, unworthy and just done, as I let the different parts of the service, and how they all pointed to Christ, wash over me. It was like finding Christ again. It was refreshing and needed. Everyone should occasionally take breaks from ministry to find his or her “be ministered to” again. The place where you can say, “Me too! I need this too!” If you do find it, thank God, because you can be sure he brought you to it.
For whatever reason, God has chosen to do this for me during a pandemic and a quarantine, and amid civil protests and rioting. He did it roughly six months after a major heart attack. There is something in scripture about God’s timing and ways being different than our own, right?
So let me end this by thanking some people God has used to help me during this time.
Let me say thank you to Erick, my pastor, for always preaching nothing but the goods, the pure gospel every week. For all the gospel reminders packed in every devotional he puts out. For all the phone calls, the shared meals, and especially the text messages that forged a relationship as both co-laborers in Christ, and as brothers. For being a real person with some of the same real struggles, so I know that it’s not contrary or unusual for people of faith to have struggles and have a God that still loves us. This has helped prepare a heart that was able to move into worship, when the work ends. This was something I didn’t learn anywhere else, but here, serving alongside him.
To the worship team, especially Matt and Kat, who have been an integral part of the church services during this lockdown. Both of you continue to bring music to us in your own unique ways, to lift our spirits during this time. You’ve helped me put aside all those busier things, and bid me to come to his throne of grace to spend time in his presence. Every song is a work of art, and a sweet aroma that lift us to meet God in praise.
Finally and foremost, thank you Father God, for flipping the switch for me. For turning off the video editor, the designing, the social media manager, the treasurer, all the things that I know that would hinder me on Sunday mornings. Thank you for turning on the parishioner, the worshiper, the needy sinner in need of absolution, the starving beggar in need of bread and wine, the baptized baby in need of another reminder of promises kept.
THANK YOU FOR YOU.
Now, for those that made it to the end of this article, and felt some of the same things I have? It’s because I know you. I know the you that has trouble turning it all off. To be honest, I also know it’s not just the worker part of you that’s hard to turn off. It’s also the you that finds it hard turning the doubter or the accuser off. It’s the you that finds it hard turning the rejection off, the I’m not good enough for any of it. I still personally know it’s hard turning off the sinner who thinks they’re too unworthy to come into the presence of God. It’s hard to find the worshiper in all of that, I know.
Let me encourage you to keep coming, keep listening, keep confessing, keep hearing the words of absolution, keep receiving communion, keep praying, keep remembering the promise of your baptism every time you wash your face.
For as long as I’ve been a follower of Jesus, I’m only learning these lessons now, at 50 years old. I’m learning that God really is in control, and he will help me with my unbelief, my struggles. I’m only just learning that we don’t move from the Gospel once saved, but desperately closer to it as we go.
God will flip that switch, I promise you. He will make you a worshiper when all you can see is a worker or a stumbler, a server or a sinner. He is the one who switched Christ’s righteousness with your sin, your shame, your unworthiness. I was just as amazed when he did it for me-as he still does it for me, and I still am.
God makes worshipers, He makes disciples. He makes followers. He makes you.
May your eyes be open to see that today. That’s my prayer for you.
God’s blessings to you.
If you’d like to know more about our church, our pastor, maybe listen to some of his sermons, check out our website by clicking the name below. If you’d like to help us out financially, go to the website, click on “Giving” on the main page.
you can also find us and give via VENMO. Look us up there at @EpiphanyChurchNYC
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