by Michael Goforth
PORT AUSTIN, MI – It was our biggest outreach event of the year...and it was canceled. At least that’s what we thought
We are a church plant in the tiny town of Port Austin, Michigan. If you hold out your handy map of the state and look at the tip of your left thumb, that’s where we are. A charming beach town on the shores of beautiful Lake Huron with a year-round population of 600. (And I’m convinced Hallmark should film their next Christmas movie here.)
God has blessed our church plant with a beautiful little building, and we are very thankful. However, when I say it’s little, I mean it. In fact, the people of Port Austin literally call it, “...the little white church on the hill.”
But every year on Christmas Eve, more than 100 people cram into that little church building, including many first-time visitors. Together, we celebrate the One who came to rescue us from sin, and reconcile us to God on that very first Christmas.
Unfortunately, an event like this with no form of social distancing would be impossible in 2020. We couldn’t offer multiple services for a variety of reasons, so we simply decided to rent a larger building.
But when December came around, COVID-19 cases in our area spiked and the building we had lined up became unavailable. After exhausting our options and coming up with a lot of bad ideas, I was pretty convinced we would have to cancel.
Another Bad Idea
It was at this point that I came up with another bad idea. What if we met outside? I mean, how charming would a Christmas Eve service be in 20 degree weather with 25 mph winds coming off of Lake Huron?
With a lot of hesitancy and the attitude of, “anything is better than canceling,” we moved forward with the idea. I reached out to the wonderful folks at our village hall and they graciously let us host the service next to the town Christmas tree on the village green.
This is the part of the story where our church members came in clutch. They took the initiative to line up fire pits, secure a portable sound system, help set up a makeshift stage, and so much more. It was awesome to see the people of God doing the work of the ministry. (Eph. 4:11-12)
The Big Day
The day came around and we eagerly anticipated 12 people would show up. I’m slightly exaggerating, but the weather didn’t seem conducive to many more. That’s when God stepped in and completely exceeded our expectations. (He has a knack for that sort of thing. Eph. 3:20)
I was amazed as the village green of our little town filled with people. It was the most well- attended Christmas Eve service we have ever had. People who happened to be walking by decided to join us and others pulled up in their cars to listen.
On that cold December night, I had the incredible privilege of proclaiming the good news of great joy over a loudspeaker in the heart of downtown Port Austin. Jesus was lifted high, and people who may have never set foot in a church building heard the gospel that night.
This experience was added to a large and ever-growing list of mine labeled: “God’s plans are always better.” I don’t know what 2021 is going to look like for your ministry, but I’ll echo what many have already said this year, “Don’t put your hope in 2021.”
It may just be that in the sovereign plan of God, this year will be another difficult one. We may have to set aside plans, make adjustments, or even cancel some things. But we know that our Father is always working, even in the mess. (John 5:17) We would be wise to look for God’s activity, enter in, and trust that no matter what happens: His plans are always better.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Goforth is the lead pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Port Austin, Michigan. He led a group to plant this church in November of 2016 with a vision to spread a passion for the glory of Jesus in Port Austin and beyond. He and his wife, Shannon, have been married for six years.