Yesterday was Collective Church’s preview service—and I almost missed the whole thing.
For the past two weeks, I have prayed every day that God would spare me of getting the flu until after January 19, the date of the aforementioned preview service. I have been absolutely terrified that I would catch the flu just in time to miss the service, and everybody seemed to be getting it. So I have been desperately praying, “God, please don’t let me get the flu.”
And I suppose my prayer was answered… technically.
Friday night at midnight, I woke up with a terrible pain in my stomach and nauseated in a way that only means trouble ahead. Two hours (and several trips to the bathroom) later, I drove myself to the Emergency Room. The whole time, I had two thoughts running through my head: 1) Don’t throw up, and 2) What am I going to do about the preview service?
Once I was checked into the Emergency Room, my nurse gave me something to tame the nausea (for which I will always be grateful) as well as the relentless pain. I was practically immobilized, but at least I wasn’t hunched over in the bathroom, praying for sweet, merciful death. They ran blood tests and an abdominal scan, and the doctor said it looked like I had eaten something that was seeking hostile revenge.
“Have you been traveling lately?” He asked.
“Yeah,” I said. “I was in Southern California earlier this week.”
“Ah,” he said. “Did you eat a lot of tacos?”
“Well, one of them doesn’t like you very much.”
Well said, Doc. Well said.
At least it wasn’t the flu, right?
After the meds had worn off, I was released and drove myself home to suffer in private. All the while, I was obsessing over the preview service—now nearly 24 hours away. It all seemed to be falling apart, all because of a bad taco.
I texted my friend, Phil, and asked if he could preach if I was unable to make it. He said he could. I then deputized my wife and our friend Jackie to basically run the whole service in my absence. I contacted our children’s coordinator, Michelle, and let her know that she may have to run the whole kids’ area without me there to offer whatever support she may need. I posted on a couple private Facebook pages and pleaded for prayer.
Several people from those groups contacted my wife to ask if they could help. All of a sudden, lots of people rose to an immediate and unexpected challenge. The service was going to happen with or without me.
Of course, I still wanted to be there. I’ve been working for months on this project, and I really was not excited about having to miss it because of a bad taco (or whatever it was). All day Saturday, in my moments of consciousness I prayed that God would cure me of this awful, awful sickness.
As late as 3:00am on Sunday, I really didn’t think I was going to make it. When my alarm went off only a few hours later, I took some medicine that had been prescribed at the hospital, and I left my house, hoping that the medicine would stand its ground until noon.
While I was weak, shaky, and light-headed, I didn’t feel sick once all morning. I preached two services, and I think it went alright. So apparently prayer works after all.
But the real story here is how everybody else responded. That is to say, everybody who was contacted on Saturday was determined to make the service happen. While I may have needed to be there for my own emotional well-being, they certainly didn’t need me in order to have church. All of the responsibilities that were delegated the day before remained delegated, and it all went fine. I learned what these people are capable of, and I am so grateful to have them on my team.
We often have this idea of church as a show—this fragile thing that could fall apart if the wrong person can’t make it or if the electricity goes out. We count on the “production elements” being exactly what they have to be—the music leader is sufficiently prepared, and the preacher has his or her message perfectly memorized, three application points and all. The right people have to be “on the stage” lest the whole thing goes down in flames.
But that’s not what I saw this weekend. I saw people who so deeply wanted church that they were willing to create it themselves. I saw people say, “If Rob can’t do this, we will do it ourselves.”
It was beautiful and profound and all the things I have wished church could be.
And I never would have known any of this if I hadn’t eaten that taco.
I am so grateful to be starting this journey of faith, hope, and love with some of the most dedicated people I have ever had the privilege to know. I am grateful to these people who are willing to say, “We want church, so we will do whatever is necessary to have church.”
So to the people of Collective Church: Thank you for being my community.
Thank you for your love for what we are doing and this Jesus for whom we do it.
Thank you for being unstoppable, even when I have been sufficiently stopped.
Thank you for being stronger than a bad taco.
I can’t wait to see you all again on February 16.