We had an unexpected moment yesterday while we were gathered as a church family. It was beautiful. Peaceful. Holy. Quiet. Appropriate. Divinely orchestrated.
We have a number of people leaving this week on mission trips to different parts of the world; to share the gospel, to encourage and to serve. I EXPECTED our time of prayer for these people to be strong, powerful and deeply meaningful. I least ANTICIPATED how the presence of God would linger after our time of prayer. That was the unexpected moment. My gratitude and admiration for Gateway is hard to express. The way the church lingered in God's presence was incredible. We did not feel pressured to do anything, but JUST TO BE. I am humbled by the privilege of leading such a loving and hungry family. However, as the leader of the meeting, in that moment I immediately found myself at a crossroad. Either stick to the pre-planned schedule or adjust and linger with Holy Spirit and see what happens.
If I may for a moment, just clarify something about unexpected moments from where I sit - When pastors/church leaders make adjustments to partner and follow God in the unexpected moment, they are usually applauded for being courageous and "allowing" Holy Spirit to move. Can I be honest? We are courageous when we linger in the unexpected moment and we are courageous when we stick to the schedule as planned. The entirety of our time together as a church family is by faith. We put a plan in place on what we think God wants to do in a service and we move forward by faith. Sometimes, in the middle of our faith-filled plan, God does something that we do not expect. So, we are confronted with a moment to adjust or "stick to the plan." You know the last time someone came up to me and told me I was courageous for sticking to the plan(created by faith and with expectation)? I CAN'T REMEMBER! Don't get me wrong, pastors love affirmation and encouragement. We need it. It inspires us to be joyful laborers. But, I can promise you; it takes as much courage to follow God when you are on the plan, as you do when you get off the plan and lean into the unexpected moment. It takes as much courage because the entire meeting is by faith. If we think our plan is going to change lives we are fooling ourselves. If we think we can force an unexpected moment because that changes lives, we are fooling ourselves.
I can't speak for all pastors, but I can speak for the ones whom I serve alongside at Gateway. We believe that our unexpected moments AND our plans are from God. We love God. Hosting Him, welcoming Him, beholding Him and following His lead in a gathering is the most important thing we do; because it originates out of our most important position - Worshiping Children of God.
If I may be so bold, the next time you see your pastor or church leader, celebrate them for being courageous and wise. It doesn't matter if the service had unexpected moments or the pastor followed the script. Both require faith and in the end, faith expressing itself through love is what counts and pleases God.