The question was one I had to think about for a moment because there is so much that I am looking forward to:
* I'm looking forward to many friends and family who will be coming from all parts of California to see one another again and worship together.
* I am looking forward to leading a New Church Development once again, a kind of church experience that I just feel I was made to be a part of and to lead in my pastoral calling.
* I am looking forward to the Bel Air worship band, led by Liz Brackenbury, a broadway singer and a deep woman of faith to lead our music.
* I am looking forward to the Gold Coast Bagpipe Band, one of the best bagpipe bands I've ever played with, to open and close the worship service.
* I am looking forward to throwing a huge party (Sprinkles Cupcakes included) for God.
* I'm looking forward to the raw energy and initiative involved in hauling two trailers full of equipment from a storage unit, to the back door of a movie theater at 6:30AM, leading a one hour worship service, and then, tearing it all down again in less than an hour.
* I'm looking forward to interfacing with an incredible handful of sound, light, camera production and and tech professionals who are such a gift to Mission Street.
* I'm looking forward to meeting in a space to worship God that has absolutely no outward vestiges of religion and ecclesiastical infrastructure.
And the list goes on…
But the thing I am most excited about is that a few of the people who will be coming this weekend have absolutely no concept of what a church is, or who God is, or what the whole thing is about.
For a couple of months now, I have been getting coffee at a small coffee shop here in Camarillo. Each day, I have just gone into the coffee shop and bought a coffee and talked with my friend who is the lead Barista there. This past week, I decided to take a risk and tell my Barista friend about our new launch of a church, and to invite him to our opening service in the movie theater. I had no clue about how he might respond. To be honest, I thought it might be the end of our relationship.
To my surprise, he was elated. "Oh wow!" said my friend, "This is amazing." "I love it." And then he asked me a question that I will never forget. "Do you think I could get a ticket for this new worship service?" "A ticket?" I asked. "Yes, this sounds amazing, I really want to come, where do I buy a ticket for the service?" I was flabbergasted. My friend actually thought he needed a ticked to come to….church. "You don't need a ticket. Just come," I said. "But I want to make sure I get a seat, how much are the tickets, where do I buy one?" "You don't have to buy a ticket, just come," I said. The man was insistent. He needed a ticket.
For a moment, this exchange almost literally broke my heart. This man was so excited for this new church, and wanted so badly to be a part of it, and was worried that he might actually miss out. And maybe this man's entire life-frame of reference was that everything in life that is of any worth has to be purchased, it has to be bought, you need a ticket for.
I was about to tell him that admission was free, but then I thought twice about that. In a real sense, admission to church is not free. It's not free for any of us. God bought our admission to church, to new life, to eternal life, many years ago on a cross. He bought it with his life. So, in a real sense, my friend,. who has never been to church before, was quite correct. Perhaps this total outsider knew more about God and theology than I did. Admission is free but we do need a ticket - that was bought for us a long time ago.
Then, I looked at my friend in the eye and said, "There is just one more seat available, and it has your name on it. I will save a seat for you. I have your ticket."
My friend was brimming with happiness and appreciation. And so should we all be, who worship God week to week. We do need a ticket. And we have one.
If you are in the area, I will see you this coming weekend at the Edwards Movie Theater, at 9:30AM in Camarillo. If you live afar, then please pray for us!
All For Now!