Fresh Eyes

Recently at my church I have had the opportunity to do something that I have never done in the five years that I have been there. Over the summer had surgery to remove cancer, which left me out of commission for quite a while. But as I am beginning to regain strength following my surgery, I have been able to come to church simply to enjoy worship. Maybe this does not seem like such a big deal to all of you who show up and enjoy worship regularly. But for five years Sunday mornings have been working time for me as I have always been involved in the band, the liturgy, and the preaching at my church. What a refreshing experience it has been for me to show up as a part of the congregation to worship along with everyone else.

This experience has also given me another opportunity that I have never had here at my church. This past month I have been able to sit and observe everything that takes place on a Sunday morning. I sit in the back on Sunday morning with a notebook and scribble page-after-page of notes. And I am not just paying attention to what is taking place on the stage in the front of the Worship Center. I am just as interested in looking around the room and seeing how everyone else is engaged in worship. It has brought some new insights to light.

It is no secret to me that the church I serve is filled with wonderfully friendly people who jump at the chance to introduce and meet new people in welcoming conversation. This is a great thing. But what I am noticing is something a little more logistical. It is the way our set-up can improve the welcoming experience for guests. Let me explain. I see guests walk in the front door and stop for a moment to look around. It is a moment of confusion as they search for a place to belong. I wonder what we could be doing to make the Welcome Hosts even more obvious as a go-to person for help and information. And I wonder if we can do an even better job at placing essential signs in the right place for directing new guests.

The second thing I notice is what happens when guests walk into the Worship Center. Again there is a moment of confusion when guests stop and look around and wonder where they are supposed to go. Admittedly, any new worship center is a bit confusing to someone walking in the room for the very first time.

I think all of these observations bring me to an important lesson. Every now-and-then it helps for all of us to look at things with fresh eyes. Let me be the first one to say that this was hard for me to do. It was essentially forced upon me by my circumstance of recovering from surgery. Otherwise, I walk into Horizon Church on Sunday morning the exact same way I have always walked into Horizon Church on every other Sunday morning. And I completely miss what other people are experiencing as they walk in to join us on Sunday. Maybe the same is true for you as well. Maybe like me, you have walked into your church week after week the same way you have for many years, and maybe like me, you’ve forgotten what it is like to feel out of place by being in a new surrounding with new people. I have observed that this takes place every week with new guests at Horizon since I’ve been back from surgery. I think we can do better. I think we could all benefit by taking a moment and experience church through fresh eyes.

Let’s go one step further. Maybe a fresh experience of worship at church through fresh eyes would be good for all of us in other ways too. Sometimes I get stuck in routines for so long that I begin to forget why I do them. Every morning after breakfast before I leave the house I stop in the bathroom to brush my teeth. I do this so often that I don’t even think about it while I’m doing it. It has become a completely automatic behavior that doesn’t require me to think about it one bit. That is, until I see a dentist (I confess, it’s not every six months like I know it should be). After an experience of a new cavity I am reminded that it is important to pay attention to why I brush my teeth every morning. Maybe a fresh experience of worship like that at your own church would be a good thing for all of us. After running through the same routines time after time, we all find a moment when it is good to be reminded why we do the things that we do.

We have said many times recently at my church that our mission as a church is to help people see Jesus, know Jesus, serve Jesus, and share Jesus. It is our mission as disciples of Jesus. That is the reason why we do what we do at Horizon. I am thanking God this month that he has forced me into a corner where I have no choice but to slow down, take some deep breaths, and for the first time see my church through fresh eyes. It reminds me why I’m here, why we do what we do, and how we can strive to be even better disciples of Jesus in his church. Take a moment this month and find a way to see what God is doing at your own church with fresh eyes.

till next time…
~pastor tom