Last weekend, Teresa and I had the joy of participating in the 100th anniversary of Istrouma Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, La. When we were in seminary, we served that great church in what we consider now to be some of the most meaningful and richest experiences of our lives. Some of the very best friends we have ever known are still serving at IBC. The whole weekend was a celebration!
While we served there, the church took on the ambitious task of moving to a new location. I’ll never forget the process of selecting the land, raising the funds, designing the building, and moving that ministry to the new place. One of those special memories that came back to me was a work day at the new property shortly after we closed on the purchase of land. The slide show running during the banquet had several pictures of that day, including some of a much younger me.
As I recall, on that Saturday, I put on a work cover-all and climbed down into a ditch that ran through the middle of the property. That ditch had been a source of concern because it would need to be dealt with since the master plan called for the permanent sanctuary to be built right over it. For most of that day, I was one of several who removed trash, cut through old bushes and vines, and made the first dent dealing with that ditch.
Last Sunday, I sang in the sanctuary that is standing on that very spot.
The significance of that wasn’t lost on me either. As we worshipped, I flashed back over the 32 years between those moments and God’s faithfulness on our journey and His faithfulness to that church. The vision of Pastor Jim Bain that seemed so distant and impossible in 1988, had in fact, become reality.
That’s what God does. He builds sanctuaries where ditches used to be. And amazingly, He lets us be a part of what He is doing. Remember that the next time you find yourself up to your eyeballs working your hands off in a ditch for a sanctuary you can’t see. When the time is right, the sanctuary will be built, and you will be able to celebrate what God has done.
The song that will come from your heart then will be sweet indeed.
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book (checkout his latest book: Worship Essentials). In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family (and his two new grand-babies). Visit MikeHarland.com to keep up with all that Mike has going on.