When we started in ministry, I had to do everything. In the early months of our first church plant, I was leading worship along with being the church janitor, preacher and everything else required at the beginning of a new ministry.
Leading worship was an uncomfortable experience for me. By this time we had two women attending who could play guitars. I had the women stand on either side of me during worship. We were now the official worship band.
Our worship rehearsals left little room for any creativity. We had to follow the worship list exactly because in our inexperience each of us had to hit our cues and make our transitions in unison or it would all fall apart. My instructions were simple, “Keep playing no matter what happens. If we screw up just keep going until we work something out.” I had learned if I simply memorized the worship list and all the transitions, I could actually close my eyes and not have to watch the people. I could hide behind my eyelids in the place of my personal insecurity. It looked spiritual – sort of.
One Sunday, an usher rushed up to me after worship and said, “Man, wasn’t that unreal?” I thought he was talking about the worship set we just completed. I remarked something like, “Yeah, I really felt the presence of the Lord.” The usher said, “No, the guy that had the heart attack!” Our worship set lasted twenty minutes. For all twenty minutes I had my eyes closed. Some of you will find this hard to believe, but we had 40 or 50 brave souls in the service that day that witnessed what I am about to describe.
About 5 minutes into worship a man grabbed his chest and fell back into the row of chairs behind him. He was having a heart attack. My two guitarists looked at their pastor for some kind of direction. I continued to lead worship with my eyes closed oblivious to anything but getting through my memorized worship list. The guitarists didn’t miss a beat and faithfully played on. The church increased the sound level of their worship singing hoping the increased intensity would release a fresh anointing to aid in the man’s healing. Paramedics arrived and tended to the man. They removed him on a gurney just as the last song ended and I opened my eyes totally unaware of what had taken place in the last ten minutes. It was at that point the usher rushed forward to talk with me.
After the service was over, I visited the man in the hospital. When he saw me enter his room he smiled and said, “Hi, pastor.” I smiled back and said, “That was pretty hot worship wasn’t it?” We both laughed. From that day on I kept my eyes open.
Today, I was thinking of that experience from 35 years ago and a few things came to mind. God continues to work even when our fear causes us to close our eyes to the reality of what is taking place around us. Fear disconnects us from reality. Closing our eyes may work initially when we are young and inexperienced in faith, but doesn’t fit when we have walked with God for a season and should know better. The life of faith is to be lived with our eyes wide open because there are things God wants us to see.
The life of faith is a life of dramatic contrasts. Twenty years after the worship event I just described, I was leading worship in a large mega-church when something similar happened in one of our three morning services. This time, I was leading with my eyes wide open and saw what was happening. I engaged the emergency from the platform and was able to direct 1,200 people out the side doors of the sanctuary while the ambulance crew rolled their gurney down the center aisle. This time I actually stopped the worship, calmly explained to the church what was happening and prayed for the man before we reengaged worship.
There are many things taking place in this moment of history that we would like to close our eyes to and not see. Pain, suffering and all forms of sorrow are everywhere. Fear wants us to close our eyes – faith doesn’t. Fear is a form of self-initiated blindness. This may be our initial response to fear in our immaturity, but once we grow in our knowledge of God, we cannot let that be our response to the painful realities of life. God has called us to move past our blinding fear to live with our eyes wide open. Sight is our first action of faith. This sight will allow us to see solutions in the Spirit that are not yet visible to the natural eye. Once seen, these solutions can be introduced into challenging situations to bring timely resolutions.