We’ve been running a Sunday evening service at my church in Chiswick for about five years now. And it’s never really taken off.
The idea for starting it was to provide contemporary worship for people who really enjoy this, who feel closer to God through this style of music.
At first I couldn’t really see how we’d ever even get the service started. Not only did we have no band - but we didn’t even have a single person who could play the guitar or piano for us.
I remember praying about it. And God very calmly assuring me that he would provide – and I should continue making plans.
A few weeks later, we had our summer Street Party and a band – three local sixth formers – played and they were very good. I felt a prompting – by the Spirit, if you like – to ask the band if they’d play for us on Sunday evenings. The idea seemed ridiculous. Surely these kids would not be interested? But the voice in my head persisted. Go on, ask them. What harm can there be in asking?
So I plucked up courage and sent a text to the leader of the band, Jacob. And almost immediately he replied saying they would love to help.
And so we got started.
Jacob and his crew were great. But it soon became clear that they couldn’t commit to every Sunday evening. So I was back to square one in a sense. Wondering whether we should keep going. The service had about half a dozen regulars - but we rarely numbered over twelve or so. And it was a real effort to find cover for the times Jacob couldn’t play.
God, however, continued to send us musicians. A friend of Jacob’s, called Tom, started to help out. And a friend of his, called Mark, got involved. But it was still hard to cover all the slots.
I remember one Sunday evening. It was a few minutes to six o’clock. A congregation of about fifteen people had gathered but Jacob and his band had not arrived. Then I received a text saying they were stuck in traffic and would be at least another half an hour. There was probably no point in coming now. Sorry.
I leant back in my chair in the front row of the pews and thought what a struggle running this service was. What was I going to do? Was it really worth it?
As these thoughts went through my head, a man – a newcomer – in the row behind me leant forward to speak to me. ‘Are you OK?’ he said. ‘Do you need any help?’
I told him about the band. How they were not going to be able to make it.
‘Would you like me to get my guitar?’ he asked.
I was astonished. ‘Do you have it with you? Can you lead worship?’
‘I can go and get it,’ he replied. ‘I live just down the road. And, yes, I can lead worship.’
It was like a complete miracle.
The man I came to know as Al raced back home, got his guitar and returned within a couple of minutes. And, from then on, he regularly lead worship for us.
It just felt that, at every twist and turn, God provided for this service – even though it was so tiny and seemingly insignificant.
When Jacob went to university, Al and Tom’s friend Mark started helping us more.
And a couple of years later the service had grown to an average attendance of about twenty, with an all time high of 29.
Then Mark had to stop helping to study for an MA. And Tom was less available.
But Tom introduced me to a couple more friends, Dan and Becky. Both worship leaders. And Becky – a very talented singer and pianist - took on a part time role as Mission and Ministry Assistant at the church – so there was no longer any problem with finding someone to lead worship on a Sunday evening.
Since then, we’ve introduced a contemporary worship service as a second Sunday morning service – which is growing. And some people who attended the 6pm service now worship at the 11. Which is fine – but does means that numbers in the evening have dwindled.
Last September I was thinking we should wind it up. But a few faithful members of the 6pm congregation suggested that we made it just once a month, on first Sundays, and saw how that went – before stopping it entirely.
So we did this. But numbers did not improve. Furthermore, it seemed a bit crazy to be using the valuable and limited resources of our Mission and Ministry assistant to resource this service when there were so many other things she might be doing.
In the new year, I was about to advise the Church Council that we should stop the 6pm – when I received an email from Mark out of the blue – the worship leader who had gone off to do his MA. He said his studies had now come to an end and he was willing to help us out again. This seemed such a blessing. But, when he said that he could only do one Sunday a month, the first Sunday – it felt almost weird. As this was exactly what we needed.
I have no idea why God wants us to persist with this service. Why he keeps blessing it in this extraordinary way.
But the whole experience has been a lesson for me in humility. To trust God, to recognise that his love and grace endure, that he does not give up.
Last Sunday evening our numbers were double what they’d been the previous month. I don’t know what this means or what God’s purpose is through this service - but my task is to be obedient to his will.
To accept his amazing grace.
And recognise that God never gives up...even when things seem useless! Click to tweet
Posted by Martine Oborne