Sunday, May 15, 2011

Planned Spontaneity

Anyone who knows my mom might think this blog post is going to be about her. Kind of an inside family joke, my mother – a text book “J” who must have a plan for everything – adopted “planned spontaneity” as her calling card. People who, upon meeting my mom quickly get invited to one of her “impromptu” open-house parties, think she’s a fun-loving free spirit, full of spontaneity. My mom is fun and spirited, but a lot of hard work and planning goes into her apparent spontaneity. Knowing that people respond to spontaneity in an magnetic way, my mom puts great energy into the plans that lead other people to experience the organic momentum of spontaneity through her structured efforts.

This morning at Fair Oaks Church, members and attendees experienced some of that organic momentum through the planned spontaneity of an impromptu mass-baptism. Great work and effort and all-hands-on-deck for the church staff throughout the week, all was kept top secret to the very last moments. Just 24 hours before, a very small team of volunteers were enlisted and trained to help and rallied together to pray for this momentous event. I was privileged to be a part of that volunteer team and I prayed (more than any other single thing I’d prayed for in a very long time) that people would open their hearts, lower their walls and that God would use Fair Oaks in great ways through this spontaneous call for people to receive Christ and be baptized on the spot.

We all prayed for God to move in BIG ways and for BIG numbers to come forward to be baptized but I think everyone probably had a number in their heads of what they expected. Not to put limits on God’s awesome power to move 200 or 2000 people to stand up to be baptized without forethought or planning but it’s our earthly tendency to put limits on the expectations of our OWN efforts.

No matter what the number, I knew it would glorify God, but yes, I had a number in my head. I was praying for a number for the first service and a number for the second service that was about double the first. But more important than numbers, I prayed for lives to be transformed – whether by participating or by witnessing – and THEY WERE! Not to minimize the transformation of those who came forward to be baptized, but I believe there was an equal transformation for every witness in that room who watch 25 people between the two services come forward, without planning, without preparation, to be fully immersed in a tank of water in front of a large congregation of people they may or may not know with lights flashing, cameras rolling and crowds cheering. That moment taught everyone in that room something about themselves and their own faith.

For me, it was a mustard seed moment. In Matthew 17:20, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it would move. Nothing would be impossible." Compared to the number of people the Holy Spirit actually moved in those services to come forward, my expectations and prayers were literally doubled. It’s not that my faith was small, but when I saw what God did with it, it sure felt like he moved a mountain with my mustard-seed of faith. My prayers were not returned void, but doubled. Amen!

More than numbers, more than the infectious energy that moved a congregation of witnesses, there were some amazing individual stories from those 25 people, some that were near and dear to my heart and affirmed for me why God had put me where I am and used me in the ways he does. I feel so blessed to a part of a church that has big and bold ideas and isn’t afraid to act on them, all for the glory of God and the expansion of His kingdom. I’ve got a colleague who often says, “no earthly realities will dim the lights of our vision for this project.” I think we could all use a little more of that approach in life, for when God is in it, how could it fail?