This last Sunday was quite strange for us at Vail Christian Church. Everything was set to go as normal. We were all really excited for this Sunday as we were introducing our new Pastor of Discipleship and his family to the congregation. Setup and rehearsal went pretty seamless. Then, in a matter of moments, multiple things that would normally make a worship leader, pastor, and congregant go crazy happened.
Now normally when we start service at Vail Christian Church we begin with a song. During the intro of that song or just before I tend to greet everyone and then ask them to join us in singing. So what happens as soon as I greet the congregation? Sidebar: First you should know that for the last ten years Vail Christian Church has met at a high school in south east Tucson. We use the school’s lighting system. We have been able to move lights around and program the board via a 3.5″ disk drive (yes, the board is that old). The system is nothing crazy. It is just a handful of spot lights and some lighting gels for ambience.
End sidebar. So we start the first song and before I am able to sing the first verse, BOOM, the lights go out. I had no clue what was going on. All I know is that as the band and I were playing the song, and that our Lead Pastor, along with 4 volunteers, were hovering around the board trying to figure out what was going on. And so we ended up playing the song in the dark. To be honest, it was weird playing an upbeat song with no lights. I could somewhat make out the congregation because of the light coming off of our projectors, but I had no way of interacting with them like I normal do. And so the first song ends and our Lead Pastor jumps up on stage to let the congregation, including myself, know what was going on. Afterwards, we decided to keep going regardless of if we were going to be able to fix the problem.
And that brings me to my question: What do you do in this situation? I know some leaders that would freak out if this happened causing all the music to stop. I know some musicians that would not be able to play without seeing their instruments or chord charts. But sometimes, even when you cannot see 100%, even when you cannot tell what is going on, the Spirit has more of an opportunity to move amongst a group. And that is what happened for us. Just before I started the second song, I told the congregation that we would just keep going, that we do not need lights to sing praise, that we do not need lights to worship God.
So we played the next song again completely in the dark. It could have been awkward. It could have been horrible. But in reality, it was perfect. It was perfect because it showed what our congregation is up for. Our congregation is up for anything that happens in our service. The lights could go out. Or a projector could stop working (oh by the way…that also happened during the third song). My guitar could go out or the sound board could get unplugged (happened too many times). All these things could be so distracting that no one would be able to enter into a time of worship. But it’s encouraging to know that when I let go of all the things that could prevent our church from worshipping, the people are focused on God all the more. There is so much truth in that statement. As a worship leaders we focus so much on creating spaces for people to enter into worship. We put so much emphasis on our ability to do this, when in this situation my ability meant nothing. This taught me to step aside more and just let the service be. It taught me that when the lights go out or the sound board stops working… (in an Ellen Degeneres fish voice) “just keep singing.”
Ron Nord is the Worship Leader at Vail Christian Church in Tucson, Arizona. He has a Bachelor of Music from San Diego State University and a Master of Arts in Theology from Palmer Theological Seminary. As a leader Ron seeks to use music as a discipleship tool and a platform for writing and speaking.