I’m not a singer. Whenever worship leaders invite me to participate in something, I usually make sure they know that I am best used as a voice among the congregation. They really need me more to carry them 🙂
So, when one of our members suggested that we go caroling throughout the community the weekend before our Christmas service, I was skeptical. Does anyone do that anymore? Would it be effective? Would we get arrested? Would I have to sing?
The results were eye-opening and heart-revealing for the community in which we’ve been called to reach. A group of about 10 of us walked through neighborhoods, singing and doing our best to glorify God in a dark place. We met tons of people! We sang to folks still trying to hang their Christmas lights, people trying to get out of their driveway for some last minute shopping and even some families who couldn’t wait to bring their children outside to sing along the song with Hark! The Herald Angels Sing! My favorite may have been when God led us to one particular street marked with Muslims and Hindus. They got caught loading up their cars and listened to us sing The Gospel straight to them! Joy to the world, The Lord is come! Let every heart prepare Him room! The 5-8 of them weren’t really sure what to do, so they just sang along a little and wished us a Happy Holidays. Our team members countered with “Merry Christmas.” It would be a culture battle from there as both groups exchanged yule-tide greetings. Happy Holidays from the Muslim family, Merry Christmas from Impact Church. After several back and forths, the families would finally wish us a Merry Christmas with plenty of laughs to go around from both groups.
It was at this point I realized that there is a severe spiritual battle going on for souls in Northern VA and these souls all have faces and names. They are the people we work with, go to school with and wave to as we pull into the driveway. No wonder God has called us to plant a church among them!
The most telling time came when we decided to visit grocery stores and sing out front of them. We passed out candy canes and invited them to come worship with us the next morning for our Christmas service.
Much to my surprise, there was no Salvation Army bell-ringer. Just us, the cold and frantic, busy Northern VA shoppers. Our team belted words of Truth over the people such as, “God and sinners reconciled,” and “Christ, The Savior, is born!” What I saw next was astonishing…
People stopped. The stared. They took pictures. They made video. Many people who couldn’t even speak english were stopping to listen and wondering what was happening. Many faces lit up and lips began singing along the words of Truth that are so common during Christmas time. Employees of the grocery store would flip the switch on the automatic doors ensuring that the doors stayed open so that shoppers could hear us from inside the store. It seemed like the words of life that many Christmas songs bring us would be unhindered. They would spread to hundreds of people on this chili December evening in Fairfax, VA. But then, came the stumbling block…
We didn’t want their money.
We could have easily raised $1,000 for Impact Church that night. There were no signs, nobody knew who we were or what organization we were with. They just innocently took out their wallets, pulled out money and walked toward us. When I would explain to them that we weren’t going to accept their money and we were a new church in the area simply trying to love on people and spread the message of Jesus Christ, they were furious. It had nothing to do with Jesus, they were mad that we wouldn’t take their money. I remember one gentleman specifically that was clapping along and singing along for about 3 minutes and then walked up to me with a $100 bill and said thank you. I refused to take it and told him that it was free. In fact, I wanted to give HIM a candy cane and invite him to our church! He was FURIOUS! He yelled out, “Are you KIDDING me?!” and walked away.
Person after person, looked incredibly offended when I told them we didn’t want anything, we simply came to give. It was then I realized that candy canes and Christmas carols were a stumbling block to The Gospel.
People in the D.C. area are really good at giving. They throw money around, because they have it. They don’t mind meeting needs, and in fact, believe they have a human obligation to do so. They fight for the homeless and the less fortunate. The problem is: We have a hard time receiving grace. The Gospel is centered on what Christ did for us, not what we can do for Him. To make it obvious, God saved us in a way that allowed us to take zero credit for eternal life. They weight of our sin and the mission to rescue us lies 100% on the shoulders of Jesus as does the glory of our new life. Our role? Believe. Give your life. Have faith. Repent of sin and trust in a new covenant. Your money, good works and power & prestige get your no where in The Kingdom of God.
I learned during our Christmas outreach times that this is a major stumbling block. However, it is the very power that saves! So we keep on, looking for those who are weary and tired and need a break from the burdens of our culture and religion. We need Jesus. Merry Christmas.