A few minutes later I walked over to find, as I had expected, a mostly dark church. Random lights were on in some areas, but the air conditioning was off in the whole building as were all the auditorium's lights and speaker systems. We still had the worship service (which at my church is an open-service style) and, I think, most of the Sunday school classes...but the nurseries were dark, hot, and empty; the warmer balcony was almost deserted; and the teaching hour was cancelled.
Even before the service started I couldn't help but think about some ironic/eye-opening reminders. During the 75 minute service, more things kept popping up in my mind. So here they are - lessons from a dark church.
1. We're Spoilt. Yep, that's right. We Americans are spoiled little brats accustomed to a particular level of comfort. Honestly, even before I knew about the lack of power I had considered not staying for the teaching hour because I didn't feel the best today. I took a pain reliever because my scraped hand from yesterday has been giving me grief.
Is it fun to sit in a huge room with no air conditioning and a bunch of other people in the middle of a Texas summer? No, but think about churches in other countries. Places like India, where they probably get just as hot and never have the AC luxuries we do, but where they still gather week after week because they want to.
2. "Singing and Making Melody" (Eph. 5:19). Without the PA system or the computers to run the slides, our opening singing time was a bit more challenging. But honestly, I liked it better. Without the speakers increasing the volume of the instruments, I could hear the actual singing. While I appreciate the work the musicians put into playing, it was fun to actually experience singing together as a church body....although I must admit our church definitely shouldn't make a recording...some of us can't sing exceptionally well ;-)
3. "Let the Little Children Come." This one ties into the last one. With the little kids not being in the nursery, they were in the service instead. And I loved hearing one little girl (probably age 3 or 4) belting out the choruses on the songs. I sure didn't mind the couple times a baby cried either. But that may just be because I love kids :)
4. Be Real With Me. It was an interesting phenomenon...but with no PA system, no AC, and no lights other than sunlight coming in windows and doors, the whole atmosphere of the service seemed more relaxed, less "put-on," and more real. Several men took off their suit coats. The sharing seemed more off-the-cuff. We laughed more. It just felt nice. Usually, men walk down to the lecterns because that's where the mics are. The rest of us sit in our pews, separated by the distance, however small, and hearing the voice over the speakers. There's almost a disconnect between the person talking and the congregation---something I didn't realize was there until I recognized that it was gone today.
5. Jesus as the Light of the World. In God's timing, the opener had previously planned to share from 2 Cor. 4:4-6, which talks about how the gospel is a light to us in a world of darkness. One of the songs we sang was "Shine, Jesus Shine," a song which I have really appreciated since I first heard it on a friend's favorite CD eight or nine years ago. As we were singing the song and as various men got up and shared about different ways Christ is our light, I couldn't help but think about it. He is the Light, the fuel, to banish the darkness of the world. We are to be like lamps or like mirrors, carrying or reflecting the power of His gospel.
So there you have it - a few things you can learn at church, even without power. Honestly, I think every church should have a blackout Sunday once in a while. It has the capability of serving as a good reminder of our blessings and breaking us out of the routine-ness that is always a danger in our spiritual lives.