I recently posted on Facebook that I had an opening in my travel schedule and would love to book an extra show while I was in a certain part of the country. I said it would be FREE and if there was a church who wanted to host the show they could contact me directly. Immediately I got Facebook replies, private messages and emails. People wanted to know how much it would really cost? What were my sound requirements? Did I have to know by today or could I put the date on hold for their church until they were able to go through the proper committees to get the event approved?
Then there was one girl who simply wrote and said, "Come to Zion, Illinois. Our church would love to host you and get you hotel rooms!"
Admittedly Zion, Illinois was not where I had in mind. I was hoping for a show in Indiana as I routed my way back home to Nashville from Michigan. But I felt a draw. This girl seemed genuinely excited. I googled Zion. It wasn't that much further than the original routing. I wrote her back, "Sure! If your church wants to host, that would be perfect."
This is usually about the time the person on the other end says they are so excited and they will get back with me after they talk to the leaders at their church.
And this is what usually happens next.
They head to their local church and get told what channels they have to go through. The channels are often long and complicated. Go through this minister- that committee- this department. And then-
For those who attend larger churches they are often shocked to find that the immediate answer is no. "No" because the artist would need to rent our building. "No" because we book artists in-house; we call them- they don't call us. "No" because there are just too many things going on inside our walls- we would have to book that sort of thing a year out.
For those who attend smaller churches they are often discouraged to find that the immediate answer isn't "Yes" but "What if we can't pull it off?" I've seen it dozens of times. A small group of people wanting to do something new and different in their smaller church and the leadership is overly cautious and reluctant to the point that the idea dies in the water. Their questions are valid. Do we have the right sound equipment? What does this artist really want from us? Will anybody attend? Will too many people attend? Is the stage big enough? What do we have to commit to, ultimately?
And for those who attend medium size churches there are just enough staff members and just enough committees that the process gets stuck in a no-man's-land middle. The answer isn't no, but it isn't yes. It's hold on... we're talking about it...
dead in the water.
And please hear me say- there are valid reasons behind all of these scenarios. Mega-churches function much like mega-corporations. There is a whole division of staff who oversee the use of their building space and those people are not necessarily ministers- they are event coordinators. Because of the sheer size of these churches, it is not easy to just move. Small churches have valid questions about their ability to move with excellence. Medium sized churches have proper checks and balances that keep a million events from sprouting up on their campuses.
And it is all very responsible and reasonable. And I get it. I do.
But sometimes I don't get it.
Sometimes I just want to say, "HEY CHURCH- BREAK YOUR OWN RULES- BE FREE TO MOVE."
This isn't about whether to let an artist have a concert at your church or not.
This is about the church's ability to move freely, for the sake of God's kingdom and God's children, in a multitude of situations.
Somehow, someway, the church has to find a way to be responsible with it's buildings, resources and approval processes while also being free to move when the moment arises and the Holy Spirit prompts.
We need churches that are free to say YES.
When Hurricane Katrina hit, churches that were FREE were able to immediately open their doors for families to move in. When the Earthquake in Haiti hit, churches that were FREE were able to immediately send money, people and aide. When children were murdered in Newtown, Connecticut, churches that were FREE were able to open their doors for prayer vigils that very night. When a person serving others around the world comes home and wants to share their stories, churches that are FREE can take a break in their sermon series. When a church is given the opportunity to pour resources into another church in crisis, churches that are FREE can invest generously and react quickly. When the local Fire Department needs a place for grieving families to go, churches that are FREE can shift around Wednesday night meals. Can shift around their routines.
When the need or opportunity arises- a church that is FREE can shift to accept the gift or take on the hard work.
Churches that are FREE can shift.
Free churches can make exceptions to the rules. Free churches can supersede precedent and take chances. Free churches can move and act the very moment the need or opportunity arises. Not because they are irresponsible or do not uphold normal policies and procedures- but because there is an agreement that while those things are in place for good reason- sometimes God asks you to break those things for good reason.
Sometimes the Holy Spirit has to trump Holy Policy and Protocol.
Sometimes there is a prompting. An opportunity that would transform the community or bring immediate aide to the hurting. Sometimes there is a moment when something lands at your church's front door that is unexpected- unplanned on- perhaps even unwanted. But what if that were a gift? The unexpected event that scares us the most. The thing we have the least experience with. The opportunity we were certain would never happen at our church. What if it shows itself- lands right there on the front doorsteps-
Is your church free to move?
The church in Zion, Illinois was free to move.
A girl in the congregation signed her church up and then called her pastor immediately and asked, "Could we do this?" And the pastor said, "Absolutely! Tell her yes and then we will have a meeting on Sunday night to gather our questions about the event, to divide up responsibilities, to figure out details. But first- just say yes."
This is a beautiful model. It isn't carte blanche to do anything you want with no checks and balances. But it is a beautiful picture of saying YES first and being willing to figure out the next steps as they come. Having enough freedom within the walls of your church to say YES to opportunities, moments and Holy Spirit promptings, without having those things die in the waters of bureaucracy, policy, committees, fears of "but we've never" or "what if's," is a sign of a church that has given it's congregants the ability to dream big, follow God's leadership and go out on a limb- even if it means breaking church precedent or doing something radically new or different.
A FREE church is a church who has made it clear that while they value their buildings, their schedules, their programs, their sermon series, their policies and protocols- at the end of the day- they value the promptings that God sends through the Holy Spirit more. And even if it poses an inconvenience, changes Plan A and Plan B and Plan C for that matter, even if they are a little bit afraid and there is a huge chance of failure, even if they aren't the best and biggest for the job- even then- they just say yes.
They are free to move.
If this has stirred your heart, consider praying these things.
God give the leadership of our church the courage and humility to say YES more than they say NO. God bring beautiful gifts and hard opportunities to our church's door that we might have a chance to be a congregation that says YES. God help me live my life in such a way that I am free to move when your Holy Spirit says move.
May our churches and lives reflect the calling and response of the Disciples who simply dropped their nets when Jesus approached them and said "follow me." May we be readily available to shift, move, change courses, open our doors, give away our money, start new ministries, host concerts, open up our gyms to stranded families, our buildings for the use of the community, and give away our time for those in need. May we get a wild hard, a crazy idea, a Holy Spirit prompting so real and unshakeable that we forgo 3 months of committee meetings- typical protocol- fear of the what-if's- and just take a chance on moving when the moment arises. May we be responsible with what God has given us while tempering that with the constant banner going before us that the leadership of the Holy Spirit always has free reign to trump our typical and usher in unexpected gifts and challenges. And when that happens- we will be churches, families and people who respond by saying-
We are free to move.