“It is amazing what you can get done when you don’t have to go to church,” proclaimed Andrea near the end of a very productive Sunday.
Earlier that day, I went through my bad-weather struggle trying to decide whether to cancel our Sunday morning gathering. I hate canceling church. I have narrowed it down to three reasons why making this rational call is so difficult:
1. I was trained that the more I step foot in the church building, the more holy and righteous I am. Saint status is given to those who show up regardless of treacherous weather. This belief was cemented in my thinking while on staff at a church in Colorado where we gathered even if our vehicles resembled a merry-go-round on the road. Not going to church due to bad weather was tantamount to not cheering for the Broncos.
2. People in the church will think I am lazy if I don’t preach on a Sunday, and the world will think that I have no faith if I let the weather hinder the ‘gathering of God’s people’.
3. Mainly, though, I really enjoy our Sunday morning gatherings. I love to preach. I love to see our folks bring their bags of donations to the Bridges pantry collection for area homeless high school students, I love to hear our peoples’ stories of horrible and great weeks. I love the hugs and handshakes. I love to watch as our praise team laughs and struggles through rehearsals. I just love to be a part of it all!
I have learned, however, that it is not always in the best interest of our folks for me to be holy, righteous, and tough, persevering through the weather. My people have taught me that:
1. Those who need least to be out on the road will be the ones sliding into the parking lot.
2. Those people who are more rational and ready to question my logic will suggest to me, after my “We ARE having church” text, with an equal number of caps suggesting “Maybe YOU should reconsider.”
3. Those who stay home, with or without my decision regarding a gathering, might just be the ones who are doing the most listening and obeying God in the moment.
4. The outside world is not really going to have an opinion regarding our decisions on bad weather Sundays.
This has been an odd year for cancellations. I have had to cancel because of too much water in the Spring and Fall. as well as too much ice and snow in the Winter. I even considered canceling due to intense threats of tornadoes. and I had a slight thought to canceling after a devastating football loss to Texas.
Yesterday was the trifecta of cancelation reasons. First, it was the rain. Since Christmas, we have had rain. The type of rain that had the people in Noah’s day paying attention. Our previous drought-afflicted dry land is now soaked and cannot absorb more water. As a result, we have a small lake behind the church building. Second, we had ice, snow and cold—the ‘feels-like’ temperature was far below freezing. Third, our meteorologists were on the air announcing, and announcing, and announcing again, that severe weather was imminent and heading our way.
Even with these facts, I woke up and looked at my weather app which assured me the temps were, and would be, above freezing. I made the decision, and sent the text, that we would have our Sunday gathering.
I quickly received back a text suggesting I reconsider. It all but called me “stupid-head.”
I drove out to the church to find that the parking lot was not flooded, yet, and that the roads were not icy, yet. With three hours left until folks were to arrive, I sat in the parking lot confident in my decision and that I was not, indeed, a stupid-head. I went into the building and called our two weather experts, who happened to be sitting on a beach in Florida. They looked up the weather and informed me that ice and bad weather was just a short time away. They said everyone would probably have a dangerous drive home following worship. They also made sure that I knew they were suffering on the beach with temperatures in the 80s. While I was thinking that they were actually the “stupid-heads”, I looked outside to see the ice already falling.
Our church gathering needed to be cancelled. Our people did not need to risk injury or accidents, furthermore, I would be able to preach next Sunday, as well as many Sundays thereafter. Even though the only other church cancelation in our community, at that moment, was an ultra- liberal church to which I was now to be associated with, I made the call. I posted the cancellation on the television closings list, texted and emailed, and even began calling, everyone. That is the benefit of a small church, the ability to call every member, every attender, and every visitor.
As it turned out, not gathering physically provided a greater gathering spiritually. I had a personal contact with almost every member, attender, and visitor. I might have actually had more contact than a usual Sunday morning when we actually gather at our building. Instead of the regular Sunday morning at the church building, we gathered around their kitchen tables, in their living rooms, and, for some, at their bedside. I gathered with two families sitting on the beach in Florida. I heard the stories of great and horrible weeks. I spoke with regular visitors who seemed genuinely glad to hear from me. It may have been one of our more productive Sundays; it may have been the exact Sunday gathering that many needed….including me.
I went home and gathered with my family. We started a fire. We watched movies. We ate the food that remained in the house (which is minimal when the three college students are home on break). Some of us ventured over to grandparents’ house for showers since our plumbing had been backed up since Christmas morning. We celebrated after receiving the text from the plumber saying he could fix our problem on Monday morning at 9:00 am (we counted it as our post-Christmas miracle). I played two of the new Star Wars games my Star Wars fanatic son received for Christmas. My wife and girls went on a cleaning spree — using the boys and me for the messy work like carrying out the Christmas tree. We all even ventured out of the house for a pizza dinner ….. and to use the restaurant bathrooms.
It was a productive day.
So, at the end of the day, without malice or agenda, Andrea proclaimed, “It is amazing what you can get done when you don’t have to go to church.”
I cannot wait until next Sunday, and for the physical gathering of Grace Fellowship; but, for now, I am thankful for a very productive Sunday.