Transforming Church Team Blog
resourcing leaders…reenvisioning the future

“Showtime!” No More – by Walt Kallestad – part 6 of 7

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Pruning and bearing fruit

This wasn’t incremental change. It was immediate. We released all the paid performers and began to use volunteers with a heart for God to lead worship. We no longer asked musicians to dazzle us; we wanted worshipers to lead us.

But pruning is painful.

The crowds, who were expecting a show, went elsewhere. Before the exodus, we were 12,000 strong. During the exodus, we lost a third of our congregation.

It not only gutted our church, it devastated me. I’d look out over the empty seats and try to count, assessing the damage. Then I’d lose track. As I would start over, I’d hear God say, You are dishonoring me right now by doing that. Worship me. Enter into my presence. I’m present. It’s about me. It’s not about attendance figures.

I’d try to put it out of my mind on Monday and enjoy a day off, but waiting on my desk Tuesday morning would be a mountain of comment cards from disgruntled consumers:

“Everybody is leaving, don’t you care?”

“What’s happening around here? It used to be so lively and exciting. Now it feels like a funeral.”

“Walt, maybe it’s time for you to step down and let someone else take over.”

“All my friends are leaving. It just isn’t the same.”

“I don’t feel like I can invite my friends anymore. The music is terrible. I don’t like the sermons. Can’t you see that the ship is sinking?”

Like the Civil War, this change divided families. Some stayed, and some left. It was heart wrenching.

Pruning is painful. But pruning is also healthy.

As the spectators went out, true worship came in. At one of our first gatherings, I read Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost from Acts 2. I summed up the Scripture by saying, “Believe. Be baptized. That’s what God says. Anybody want to be baptized?” Those dozen or so words were the extent of my sermon. That day over a hundred people gave their lives to Jesus, and we baptized them on the spot.

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