In a bold move outside the norm for most congregations, Santa Monica pastor Steve Snook plans to set aside his own preaching as he did last year and give the keys, so to say, to the Easter late morning service to those sitting on the grass at Temescal Canyon Park.
I took part and witnessed this amazing work of the Holy Spirit last year.
Instead of a tightly wrapped “boxed” Easter sermon, Pastor Steve explained at the beginning of this remarkable gathering, that God had told him, “This service is on me.”
Snook told me recently, that last year, “coming into Easter I was praying, ‘Lord, what do we do?’”
“Then, God said to me, ‘You asked for me to lead and it’s not about you and what you have to say, Steve. It’s my church, let me work,’” the pastor of Metro Church said. “Realizing for me to kind of take my hands off of it and not have to think about me preaching this moving sermon or something… It was really more about God doing it through his people.”
At the service, held at a spectacular grassy area “surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation, deep in the canyon under the Sycamore trees,” and after a potluck brunch followed by a time of music, Snook asked that those in attendance, about a hundred or so, to get into groups of 8 to 10 people. He then passed out Bible verses to each of the groups that formed. Groups were asked to discuss the verses, choose a leader, and then have that person go before the congregation and share what his or her group wanted to tell others about their discussion.
What transpired then was remarkable.
One after the other, group leaders (8 or 9 of them as I recall) shared the gospel message of Jesus and His love – and it was all given as if it was one message, pre-planned, and cohesive. Most had no “preaching” experience and yet, it was as if they had been preaching all their lives.
“People that attended were part of the service, the people came together and I believe it was an amazing movement of the Holy Spirit that we witnessed,” Snook told me. “It’s like letting the body of Christ be the body of Christ.”
He explained further, “Sometimes, we’ve been in this place of trying to bring the gospel to a non-churched people and sometimes what happens is that it’s Easter and it’s the only time they come. They sometimes don’t get to see what the church is and they don’t get to hear the message. If they’re one of those people that always go to Easter, they always get the same message.”
I was startled by the cohesiveness of the message and even Pastor Steve said he was surprised.
“It’s trusting that God has given you direction and you are willing to walk it out without attaching all of your own personal emotions and personal thoughts,” he said. “It’s not like I could have presented this [plan for Easter] to a committee. I had to know that I had heard from God. He confirmed it to me and all I needed to do was trust Him and walk it out and let it kind of happen. I did not set anyone up to facilitate those groups… that’s where I would have naturally gone. I was believing that God would allow that to happen naturally and the right people would rise up.”
He agreed with me that the gospel message was clear and the sharing was astounding.
“Some people got up there and said things very profound,” Snook said. “And then to have someone else get up and say something that was almost like they finished their sentence. Then, all of a sudden it went to another paragraph, but it was all a part of the same story. That’s what I was amazed with. They came up with such excitement.”
And about this Sunday?
“We’re going back to the same sort of thing because all I kept seeing when I was praying was those groupings of people that were in fellowship. I did not fight it.
“That’s why I’m real excited about this year. It’s like, what’s going to happen? I’m not worried about the numbers and stuff… I’m just grateful that I don’t have to get caught up in that anymore. Last year, I just felt that peace… you don’t get this picture of [Jesus] getting everything perfectly crafted [for an Easter presentation]… it was Spirit led.”
“On days like that, on Easter last year, every individual mattered. That’s what I felt. Sometimes I look at an Easter and it is just people sitting in seats.”
Not last year, and not this year. People moved and most likely will be moved again by the Holy Spirit.
Metro Church Easter on the Web: http://metrochurch.org/easter-in-the-park