Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Easter Recap...

Consider this your warning that the next few paragraphs will be brutally honest. I considered wussing out and not being honest, but felt that would really be exponentially wussy. I am going to let you into the mind of a pastor which can be risky as people have certain ideas as to who we are and how we should think and behave.

You have to understand that Easter has been a big day in the life of this church. It was on Easter 2008 that we began meeting on a weekly basis. You could say that it was our launch. I think we had around 40 people show up and while that seems like a small number you have to understand that it was nearly four times our core group. It was HUGE for us.

Easter 2009 was the grand opening of our new facility on Princeton Rd (our current home). It was beyond HUGE. We did not know what to expect but we saw 155 people show up for the big day. We were running about 55 people a week at this point in time. It was a huge launching board as we instantly gained about 7 families that are still with us at this point. Our church grew nearly 50% on that day. It is safe to say that Easter has played a big role in our growth as a church.

Enter Easter 2010. I was really expecting that we could have a crowd of around 200 people for Easter between the two services. We ended up having around 164 people for the day (our highest attendance ever) but I was really pissed off that we didn't have more. I was frustrated that we didn't see more families from the community show up. We basically had ONE family, yes you heard me right, ONE. This one is on me, we will figure this out and it will NEVER happen again.

Then I got frustrated that we had so many people out of town for this day, but I now realize that this is a double standard for me. I believe that Easter is a day for families to celebrate together, but you have to understand that for me, this church IS MY FAMILY. My closest family is 12 hours away in Alabama so I look forward to spending these holidays with my Catalyst family. It is a double standard in that many of our attendees are young couples who travel to be with family on holidays. In essence our folks are doing what I expect but I get frustrated when it does not benefit me, our church and my ego. If you attend Catalyst and traveled on Easter, thank you for making the effort to be with your family. It was the right thing to do.

The truth is that I am envious because I don't get to celebrate the resurrection with my parents. I miss standing next to my mom, hearing her sing and listening to my dad preach about the Risen King. My dad and I are both pastors so it won't happen for a few years, but when he retires you better believe we will find a way to celebrate this day together again.

Told you this was gonna be an honest post.

I am going to let you in on a little pastor secret. We struggle big time with not finding our identity and self-worth in direct correlation to how many people attend our services on Sunday. If we have a great Sunday and 30 people more than normal show up, we are on cloud nine and can't wait to talk to our pastor buddies. When we have less than normal show up, we feel like a failure and want to crawl in a cave.

This is a terrible way of evaluating whether or not a service was good or bad. Truthfully, there could be 5000 people at a church service and it could be terrible or 20 at another and it could be great. I worked with Pastor Tim Taylor at Powerline Church of the Nazarene for four years and he helped me tremendously in this area. At staff meeting each week we would evaluate the previous weekend's services by a matrix that did not include a head count. We asked questions like: What God honored? Did we sense the Spirit? Did people find help in their relationship with God? Was it done with excellence? Was the Worship Inspiring? If we could answer with honesty that these things had been done, then we had experienced good services no matter how many people attended.

The irony of this weekend was a conversation I had with a pastor I respect tremendously a few weeks ago. I was asking him about his weekend services and he told me he "took a beating" and was referring to the attendance. I encouraged this guy to throw the attendance out the window and see the good things God did. Now I find myself struggling with the exact same thing on Easter of all days. A day that has nothing to do with me, a day that should be celebrated with excitement and joy if nobody shows up to church.

So in honor of my friend Tim, we ask these questions about Easter at Catalyst:
  • Was God honored? You bet!
  • Did we sense God's Spirit? No doubt, we knew without a doubt He was with us.
  • Did people find help in their relationship with God? Yes!
  • Did we strive for excellence: Yes we did and I can't think of a glitch in the whole day.
  • Was the worship inspiring? Was it inspiring? are you kidding me? I was sobbing as I heard our people sing out, "He is Alive, He is Alive, Alleluia He is Alive"
Side Note: Did you know that Jonathan Sprang arranged that song? He took an old song that sounded like marching song and breathed new life into it. Did you know that a mega church in the DFW area opened their weekend with his arrangement, that a Presbyterian church in another state used this song and emailed that their people loved it? If you missed it, go to http://catrow.tv and watch the first sermon in the I am Forgiven series and fast forward to 17:56.

So, how was Easter at Catalyst? It was a good day. Do I wish there had been more people here to worship with us? Yep, but am thankful that a lot of our families spent Easter with family.

We will figure out what the disconnect was with our community this year. We will fix that and be ready for next year.

Never again will I sulk on an Easter because of a lower than expected turnout. The resurrection is so much bigger, so much more epic than a head count.

God- forgive me for letting my pride dampen the greatest day of the year. Forgive me for feeling frustrated at families that are doing the right thing by being with their families on Easter. Open our eyes to the disconnect that occurred with our community this year. May we never forget that you put us here for the people that are not yet attending. Thank you for all the people that are here this year that weren't here last year. Thank you for the work you are doing in and among our people.

3 comments:

chiapett said...

Ok, I wrote a long comment and somehow my browser lost it before posting. If somehow you got it, please disregard this one. Actually, this one will probably be better than that one, so disregard that one.

First of all, I appreciate that you are always willing to be real.

Secondly, you have every right to feel everything you are feeling.

Thirdly, sounds like you have already worked through your negative feelings in a mature way.

Your post kinda ticked me off.

Society judges pastors by their stats, for better or worse. In the same way, society (very unfortunately) judges women by their size.

Reading your post was kind of like a morbidly obese woman listening to her cute friend whine about not being able to find jeans in a double zero.

I'm the fat chick in this metaphor.

You are spectacularly successful in what you have accomplished at Catalyst by every measurable standard. I confess to struggling with jealousy as I've grown my church from 120 down to 80 in the last two years.

I confess to a feeling of despair every time I look at twitter on Sunday afternoons and read all the pastors bragging about their attendance under the premise of "giving God the glory." It accomplishes the opposite of causing me to glorify God. It causes me to doubt myself. I'm sure this says more about me than anybody else.

Thanks for allowing me to "vent" a little. Hope I'm not throwing up all over you. Just thought your honest post deserved the respect of an equally honest comment.

HeatherLow said...

That was bold Levi!! Way to go in keeping yourself in check, giving your friends props in keeping you accountable, and being real. I love that about you!!

Anonymous said...

Levi, I love that you are just honest, good or bad. I just want you to know that I will never get to be with my family on easter, but that is ok because I have found a new "family" to share easter with thanks to you and Catalyst.
God Bless
BJ