My insomnia was sin. I spent hours a week awake in bed envisioning our church as another church. I even had a new name and logo, Emmaus Road Presbyterian, in the trendy all lower case letters with an ancient, but modern, open Bible and broken piece of bread. At 2 a.m. I agonized over our worship, wishing it was passionate, "authentic" (whatever that means).
Committee nights were either couch nights, so my wife could sleep, or medication nights, so I could sleep.
I remember a particular couch night several months ago—worship committee. The agenda consisted of discussion about the controversial change in schedule from our 10:30 service to 10:00, the excitement of the traditional singing of "For All the Saints" on All Saints Day, and when to decorate the church for Christmas, since Advent started in November last year.
Insomnia and church transformation are not a good combination. My insomnia was sin because these were the people who called me to be their pastor. These were the people who called me to love them, and serve them, and grow with them, and I believe these were the people whom God called me to pastor.
But, dare I say it, I spent most nights each week wishing they were other people, with other gifts, younger tastes, and sharper minds.
I had college friends visit last summer, and in the weeks leading up to their visit, I burrowed a nice dent in our pillow-top mattress. I wasted hours fretting about how embarrassing it was going to be when they came to the service on Sunday. I often wonder if people my age actually know that there are still churches like ours in the world. We don't have screens, let alone a satellite campus. We don't have podcasts. We don't have much youth. We don't have a latte machine and guest kiosk. We don't really have youth, did I mention that already?
Five people in our congregation (including me, my wife, and our one-year-old daughter) would know who David Crowder is.
And if you mentioned the "emerging church controversy," "ancient-modern worship," "postmodernity," or the bankruptcy of a "Christendom-based attractional model" of church mission, pretty much everyone in the congregation would look at you like you were speaking "freaky-deaky Dutch" á la Austin Powers, although 99 percent wouldn't know the Austin Powers reference.
Who did God call me to?
I remember reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer's advice to never say anything negative about the congregation you have been called to serve. I found myself, shortly after arriving here, doing nothing but that. Not publicly, of course. My stock answer was always, "Things are going great."
But at night, when I should have been sleeping, I brought my complaints before God. I justified myself at first by referring to the Psalms. Here were faithful people complaining to God about their lot in life, inspired by the Spirit to be included in Scripture, wouldn't my complaints be just as just?
Then I turned to the "After all, isn't this God's vision?" excuse. What I dreamt up at night was for our church to be more effective in God's kingdom mission. Wouldn't God want us to have a worship service that connects the great truths of the gospel to the contemporary culture? Wouldn't God want us to be filled with young families and children? Wouldn't God want us to rid the world of our pea-green, 1960s choir robes? Wouldn't God want me to be known as the pastor of that dying mainline church that turned things around?
This was about the time I read a chapter on sin by Timothy Keller. Keller explored Kierkegaard's observation that breaking any commandment was in actuality breaking the first commandment. Sin is choosing to find our identity in anything other than God.