On one of the first warm nights last spring we were standing in the pastor’s kitchen in our shorts and flip-flops after a meeting.
“I keep having this dream about a concert,” Nancy said, “in the parking lot at the church. Over and over again I’m dreaming this. I’m getting the feeling that I’m supposed to be the one who makes it happen. In this dream, I even see myself on a stage as the emcee. And people from all the neighborhoods around us are there dancing and praising God and being touched by him. The more I talk to God about it, the more I’m sure he means for me to make this happen. But I don’t know anything about concerts. I’ve never organized anything in my life. I don’t talk in public! Who am I that God would want me to do this?”
The pastor and I encouraged her. “If you feel like God is telling you to do something,” we said, “then do it, and give it the best you have. God can make up for whatever strength and experience you lack.”
My encouragement, while heartfelt, was backed with little experience. In retrospect, I barely knew what I was saying to her.
Nancy was energized, and her vision for the event grew. She imagined a number of bands all singing praises to God, fun and games for children, and food for everybody who would come. She wasn’t sure where to start, and she could see she couldn’t do it all herself. So the pastor gathered the usual suspects, the people at church who seem to be involved with every event, and they started planning.
I really didn’t want to be a part of this. I’ve written before about how I felt like I had too much on my plate already, and I wanted no more church responsibilities. Yet somehow I got sucked into the planning meetings. The more we planned, the more I felt like we were off our rockers. Not only did we lack the experience to pull this off, but our church was shedding members – many of whom were the usual suspects in our planning meetings. Before long the planning meetings consisted of Nancy, the pastor, his wife, and me.
Weeks and weeks had gone by, and we were getting nowhere. We had set a date – September 26, six weeks away – and only one band was tentatively willing to participate. We had no stage, no sound equipment, nobody qualified to run the sound equipment we didn’t have, no food, no fun and games, and no firm plans to promote the event. And then I said it. I said I thought this idea was crazy. I said that we had a snowball’s chance of pulling this off, that we lacked the experience and sheer manpower to make this happen. I said that the only reason I was willing to participate at all is because Nancy believed God was leading her to do this.
I saw nothing but lack of confidence in Nancy’s eyes. It struck me that I could squelch the whole thing if I continued. So I backpedaled and raised a challenge. I said that when we met next, in two weeks, we needed to have at least three bands committed, food lined up, a stage and sound equipment rented, and promotions planned, or we should delay the whole thing until next spring. It seemed that if we didn’t have those things in order by then the event would be impossible.
And then God started to move. The things we needed seemed to start falling from the sky.
The concert was Saturday. We had four bands.
We had food. We bought some hot dogs, but a barbecue restaurant donated enough pulled pork to feed 100 people.
We had fun and games.
The company from which we rented but a little bitty stage donated their best stage, all the amplifiers and speakers we could want, a huge sound board, and three people to run it all.
And Nancy emceed, introducing the bands with great energy – and with the glow that comes from seeing God act, multiplying your efforts beyond your capabilities.
If that wasn’t enough, God even brought the weather. It rained all week before the concert, and the forecast for Saturday called for more of the same. The dark clouds hung around as a crew set up Saturday morning, sprinkling on them occasionally. Then fifteen minutes before the show, the clouds parted and the sun began to shine. The skies were blue all four hours of the show as a gentle breeze blew. Fifteen minutes after the show ended, the dark clouds rolled back in. As we finished cleaning up and putting everything away, those clouds started to spit rain again.
But the one thing God didn’t bless us with was a large audience. It was the only part of Nancy’s vision that didn’t happen. But several people from the neighborhoods around us did come and go throughout the afternoon, and we got to meet them.
I’ve learned that sometimes God’s measure of success is different from mine. Maybe God’s primary purpose for this was not to reach out to the community. Maybe God wanted to show all of us what he can do if we just follow his lead. If so, lesson learned. I am in awe of Nancy. I am in awe of God.
This isn’t the only way my involvement at this church, which is struggling to stay alive, has stretched me. Read more about it here.