Sometimes, It’s Hard To Get The Lights On

For those who know me personally, you know I pastor a small, country church. We’re not on a main highway; instead, we’re on a country road. In fact, most who come visit us don’t just happen upon us. It’s almost certain they had to be intentionally headed our way. We’re not hard to find, but we are definitely out there. At our relatively small size, I deeply love my congregation, and I trust they do me. We have nice facilities for our size and location, and it is built on the efforts of countless church and community members who have pitched in over the years and did the hard work necessary to get things done. Our walls are solid, our carpet is good, our pews are sturdy…yet, during my pastorate, I’ve had one persistent problem. It was never with the people. No, the problem has always been getting the lights on.

On Sunday mornings, either myself or one of my councilmen at church usually make the rounds of flipping switches. Without fail, those lights let us down. Through mild frustration and persistent effort, we flip and flip and flip the switches. Sometimes, in a sequence of three, you’ll get one. The next try might get none to light, and the try after that might light two…or none. There’s no rhyme or reason to it all, and sometimes, it’s seemingly happenstance that the task is ever completed. Last year, we had some necessary electrical work done, unrelated to those tricky light fixtures. The electricians said that we may have to replace some ballasts someday, but we decided the annoyance will have to continue. We’ll correct them another day.

Still, that problem reminds me of the responsibility of the church, local and global, to teach and preach Jesus, the “light of the world” (John 8:12). Matthew 5:16 tells us to let our light “shine before men”, so that others may see what we do and glorify the Lord. Those aren’t symbolic connections I invent in this modern time; they are essential Gospel truths spoken by the Lord Himself and shared for us. The fact that the light we’re directed to show to the world can be hidden (Matthew 5:15) tells us that getting light to be seen and received can face complications.

I’ve been in ministry long enough to know every pastor faces some level of spiritual frustrations within their congregation. Messages preached that don’t seem to connect, programs began that don’t yield results quite like we would have planned, members go one way or fall away when you wish they’d stay on a certain course…I know these are commonly faced in ministry. Still, they can be very real frustrations; I’ve “flipped the switch” vigorously and repeatedly in various ways, and sometimes, it never seems to turn out like I plan. Yet, out of the blue, something happens, and all the lights shine bright. Visitors spontaneously visit and join, messages prove their relevance by the visible excitement and growth of church members, growth to the flock comes unexpectedly…the Light shines all the way by none of our own doing. Only through persistence does it come to shine, but when it does, it’s incredible!

This realization was made all the more real for me recently, when, prior to a funeral in the First Baptist Church of a neighboring town, I watched their pastor, not far off from my own age and length of tenure in ministry, persistently flick the sanctuary’s light switches on and off, trying to get all the lights on at the same time. It was the same situation in a different location, and I knew that held true for more than just those lights.

Pastors, teachers, worship leaders, whatever your role: know that the Lord is the Light! He will shine, even when it seems like He won’t. He asks us to serve in full obedience; that may bring frustrations (scratch that, it definitely will), but we must persist. Even if it feels tedious, never give up in fulfilling your role to let your light shine. The Lord ultimately does the work and brings the results when we persists, and it’s often when we least expect it.

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