A couple of weeks ago, the Summit Lake Mary congregation gathered in our new space for a night of worship and prayer. The walls were still unpainted. Fluorescent lights hung from the ceiling by exposed power lines. We walked the dirty concrete floors together, and then signed them with the names of the people we are praying for—names that will, from week to week, grace the entrance into the sanctuary like tiny prayers underneath the carpet. Although the place was far from perfect, we saw a stroke of the finished picture, and it was invigorating. We caught just a glimmer of what we hope the place will soon be: a light for the people of North Orlando. My favorite part of the night was, perhaps, the worship. It was not because I was the one on the stage leading worship. In fact, it was quite the opposite. There was no sound system, no microphone, no slides, no fancy arrangements, no cool instrumentation. I couldn’t even hear myself singing, and that is what I loved about it! With all of the production stripped away, I could actually hear the voices of the people I worship with week to week. Those voices were naked, hopeful, and absolutely beautiful.
As a musician and an artist, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype. I’ve made a lot of albums in my life, and I’ve learned how to add layer upon layer until it sounds perfect. If it sounds too thin, I’ll just add some more guitars or ambience. If the drums need more punch, I’ll turn one kick drum into three kick drums. I can even digitally tune someone’s imperfect vocal to absolute perfection. As cool and artistically beautiful as the final product is, it’s easy to forget how it all began. Most of my songs start on the back porch with an acoustic guitar.
To me, the night of worship in the new space was “the back porch with an acoustic guitar.” I know we’ll eventually get to see the final product—the lights, the sound, the slides, every seat filled—and it will be amazing and well deserved. But I think we’d do well to remember these back porch moments.
As we move forward into the next chapter of the story God is writing, let’s reflect on the back porch moments. Here are a few I remember: The day we loaded up the trucks and moved into Lake Mary High School. The very first service in the auditorium. The handful of times the video wouldn’t play and Garry or O.J. had to give an impromptu sermon. The few weeks we had to move our services into the LMHS cafeteria because of flooding in the auditorium. Singing Silent Night unplugged in the parking lot on Christmas Eve. Setting up and tearing down every single week. Doing life together… There are so many more.
It’s these moments that I need to stay grounded. Truthfully, these are some of the most exciting moments we have. We are full of hope and expectation for what God will do, and the longing imperfection feels truer to real life. These moments make us who we are.
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