if you lose the words just carry the tune

I’ve been working at churches for almost 6 years now, really 8 if you include those years in college.  And there are still a few things that get me every time I experience them.  They aren’t abnormal experiences when you’re within a church body, in fact I’ve had then happen to or around me probably 100 times, but still – they blow my mind every time.  Every.  Time.
A couple of them happened to me today which once again, made me blessed to be in this place at this time.
First up – when the church body rallies around an individual or a family in prayer.  We have a family in our church who has had a bit of a rough season.  The husband has been in need of a kidney transplant and this week his wife is going to be his donor.  It’s an incredible story and as a church we have been praying them through this difficult time of waiting for answers.  The surgery is this Wednesday so this morning at church, we gathered around this family to pray.  It was such an amazing display of faithfulness of a community.  I know it’s not unexpected in a church but it’s something that our church does so well, we know how to care for our people.
Secondly, the moment when we go from people who worship side by side to people who worship together.  There’s a couple in our church who have been attending for quite some time, they recently became members and they are even in my small group.  This morning, in the midst of the usual weekly chatter after service, talking through our past weeks, our upcoming weeks, even the upcoming small group Christmas party, there was a shift in the conversation.  It was really subtle, but the shift was there.  It was like talking with old friends, we were joking in that comfortable fashion.  This couple has become a part of my community, I look forward to seeing them each week and hearing about what’s really going on in their lives.  We worship together rather than simultaneously, our friendship bringing glory to God.
Another evidence of this was in another conversation with some newer attenders.  I had mentioned that I had been praying for this woman over the week because as a member of the staff I had gotten her prayer request the past week.  Later in the conversation I had mentioned that my finals were coming up this week.  This same woman placed her hand on my shoulder and said, “Now I know what I’ll be praying for you this week.”  Her warm smile lit her whole face up and I was so blessed in that moment.
This third moment that blows my mind is the moment when someone (family or individual) goes from visitor to attendee.  Most of the time it’s a subtle shift, but today it came as a (shocked) statement from a dad.  We had the opportunity for child sponsor ship through Covenant Kids Congo and while I was manning the table, a newish family approached.  Through the conversation the daughter, a 7th grader, was telling me how she wanted to be a missionary some day and how excited she was to sponsor a child.  Her dad kind of shook his head and mentioned, “We’re going to end up going here aren’t we?” to his daughter.  I then got to hear some of their story about church, but that’s not the point.  In having this conversation with me and his daughter I could see it dawn on him that his family was becoming attached to this place.  It was a great moment to witness as he looked over at his daughter who just nodded enthusiastically.
The reason I think I still find wonder in these moments is that it is so counter-cultural.  In this western world we are fed this idea that we don’t need anyone else in our lives.  We are individuals or individual families.  We have no need for the type of community that the Church is about.  And yet, when people taste the kind of fellowship that comes from the Holy Spirit, it’s addicting.  They want to join up in a good way.
This is not to say that our church is doing it perfectly (although, I’m biased, I think we’re awesome) or to say that all churches experience these moments.  I think these moments are so often missed, so often taken for granted.  As staff members we are so quick to merely desire more congregants that we miss the process and the story of how they got there.
But we can’t miss that!  We can’t take for granted that we aren’t adding numbers to a page or an attendance rate.  We are adding active stories being lived out within our midst.  We are adding community.  We are adding hearts to beat in time with our own as we bring glory to the Almighty.

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