This past Sunday, Grace Hills had our big Premiere Sunday at the Malco Pinnacle Hills Cinema. We had less than three weeks to prepare for the big move after making the decision to switch locations, so the last week or two have been fairly stressful, but when the big day arrived, our minds were a little blown away by the response. God showed up in a powerful way!
Here’s what my mind has been processing since we left the theater…
I have to point out up front something I repeat often when people are expressing gratitude for how well things went: “We blame the good stuff on Jesus.” He guided our planning and preparation, energized our team for the task, and His Spirit filled the theater with His powerful presence and blessed His truth.
Not only had our staff been praying hard during the days leading up to Sunday but the whole church was praying that God would use the day in a powerful way. When our set up teams were finished prepping the theater, we gathered for prayer and then fanned out to pray over every room and every seat. I believe that heavenly things only happen on earth in response to prayer.
An overwhelming number of volunteers
I even observed that if the only people who showed up were the volunteers, it would have been a well-attended day. There were a dozen people who helped us move our things into storage and/or out of storage to set up the theater. There were more than a dozen people greeting, handing out welcome brochures, directing parents through the check-in process, and guiding people into the main auditorium. There were a dozen more caring for the 16 babies, 29 preschoolers, and 71 elementary-aged kids. And a dozen more worked with the main auditorium equipment, sang and played, and worked security. Best of all, they were enthusiastic volunteers.
A collective spirit of expectancy
That is, there was an energy that could be felt. Some people came in already broken by life and others arrived with gratitude for how God has been working lately. Even those checking us out for the first time seemed delighted to be welcomed with genuine love and appreciation.
I believe our rather small team of four official staff members and their spouses are some of the best on earth. There’s nobody I’d rather be in the trenches with that Neil, Angie, and Meredith along with Lauren and Clayton. I’m humbled to get to lead them!
The Word of God
I’m reminded of how the Thessalonian believers received God’s Word when Paul wrote to them, “you received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit…” I honestly don’t know that I’ve ever felt an anointing quite that powerful overwhelm me for boldly preaching the Word. Jesus was exalted. Needs were met. Lives were changed.
Showing off our humanness
There’s always a hitch, and the hitches keep us human. I had bought a new cattle tank to use as a baptistry, but wound up heeding the advice of my wife, fellow staff members, and pretty much everyone else that the risk of flooding the room or electrocuting someone by placing it where cords were spread everywhere was too much of a risk. So, we baptized two people in the fountain in the lobby of the theater. Jennifer, first up, placed her full trust in me not to drop her, but drop her I did. It was a poorly executed moment that resulted in a lot of laughter and a “do over.” In the end, Jennifer and Garrison were both immersed in an unforgettable celebration of their new life in Christ.
Note: We finally figured out a better solution for a portable baptistry.
Leaving, but not wanting to, and with a sense of anticipation about next Sunday
“I can’t wait to see what happens next.” I said that myself and heard it from others. In all, it was a record-breaking attendance for us of 318, just three years into the church planting journey. Angie and I whispered to each other during the music that it was a “dream come true.” On my way up to speak, however, the Spirit of God nudged me with a gentle reminder. It’s a dream coming true, in the present, continuous tense. We celebrate yesterday, but we anticipate great things from God tomorrow!
So what’s next? This weekend, we kick off a series called Overwhelmed, and we’ll be talking about anxiety, depression, stress, and worry. Would you join me in praying that God’s Spirit would draw, through the invitations of friends, the people who desperately need this message to the theater next Sunday? I’m expecting great things.
See a few more pictures on our Facebook page.