A Glimpse of Heaven
With the megachurch movement alive and well—and forecast to see even bigger growth—it is easy to get enthralled with numbers in church life. Namely, the bigger we are, the better.
I have discovered that isn’t always the case. Case in point was the recent monthly worship gathering of an interdenominational group that sponsors regular spiritual retreats.
The group has been through various ebbs and flows. Turnouts once reached 100 or more, but now are often in the 40-45 range.
On this particular night, I was glad only 40 were there. Otherwise, the spirit of informality and intimacy present might have been missing.
Though my wife and I had expected to arrive about 10 minutes early for the fellowship dinner that launches the gatherings, we were actually 20 minutes late.
Prompting our late arrival: an interstate slowdown of mammoth proportions. We later learned it was caused by a couple of shoplifters who were pursued by police across the area.
It ended when spikes placed by police further down the highway finally disabled the suspects’ vehicle. Not only did their car plunge down an embankment, a police vehicle had to be towed from the scene.
Thanks to smartphone-enabled updates, we learned some tidbits about the chase during dinner. That made the serenity of the following worship gathering seem all the more blissful.
The highlight of the evening came right after a pastor read various prayer requests, including one from an anonymous source.
It spoke of a mass on one of this person’s internal organs, with a biopsy scheduled for the near future. As might be expected, they were worried and asked for peace and that God would bring healing.
After the pastor led in a general prayer for the number of requests, it was time for special music prior to our group taking Communion.
The female soloist offered a brief introduction before saying she had a confession: she was the “anonymous” person who had asked for prayer.
She said she sensed God telling her that she shouldn’t be hiding behind an unspoken request, and that she needed to humble herself and admit her fears openly.
As evidenced by the smiles on several faces and nodding heads, I could tell she didn’t need to be embarrassed about such an admission; we only wanted to support her in a difficult situation.
We could all relate to how the devil—by appealing to pride, fear of embarrassment, or other misgivings—tries to keep us locked away in isolation.
But there, we can’t find the help and encouragement we need.
United as One
Not only did we appreciate her honesty, she followed with the one of the most beautiful solos I have ever heard.
When she finished, the pastor who presided over the worship session stepped to the mic. Without saying a word, he raised his hands and wiggled his fingers, signaling everyone to come forward to pray for the soloist.
Everyone laid hands on her. Not all directly, of course, but those who couldn’t reach her placed a hand on the shoulder of the person in front of them, unifying the group.
While the pastor prayed, I felt like we were gathering a glimpse—a foreshadowing of sorts—of heaven, where we will be as one.
It also reminded me of years past, when prayer meetings and other interdenominational events were more common.
As our society has grown ever-busier in our technologically driven age, we have surrendered such high-touch moments to the illusion of fleeting contact on social media.
In terms of human capital, such developments have impoverished us instead of enriching us.