Events can take over a congregation. I have seen it. Preachers, elders, deacons, and all members can put so much work into a single event that they have little left to give in the work of the church the rest of the year. One or two events can quickly become the identity of the congregation, and that is not healthy. We tend to rely on events to provide a spark, some evidence of life that will draw people in, whether as workers in the congregation or as visitors from the community. As such, we can quickly fall into the trap of appealing to people based upon a slick presentation, changing scenery, and promotional gimmicks. But these dangers do not mean that events themselves are wrong. Indeed, if done correctly, they can have a powerful unifying and edifying effect upon those who work toward them and all who attend them. Truly, we should be thankful for those who have proven so adept at organizing such events. However, we should do more than just give a smile and a thank you for something done well, we should consider what makes an event a success in the eyes of the LORD.
After King Josiah heard the law read in his presence, he acted quickly to restore those practices prescribed in the book of Moses. Observing the Passover thus became a significant act demonstrating repentance as well as a feast-event commanded under the law. The chronicler described this undertaking in no uncertain terms: “There had been no Passover kept in Israel like that since the days of Samuel the prophet; and none of the kings of Israel had kept such a Passover as Josiah kept, with the priests and the Levites, all Judah and Israel who were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (2 Chr. 35:18). Surely, then, we could describe this as a successful event! But what made it so?
Josiah ensured the success of the feast by giving the appropriate people responsibilities, holding them accountable, and encouraging them throughout the process (2 Chr. 35:1-6). He did everything he possibly could to make everyone’s participation possible, which led others to do the same, creating a sense of unity and purpose that encouraged all the people to feel involved and valuable (2 Chr. 35:7-9). Josiah encouraged an atmosphere where people felt comfortable in their roles and understood their value–even if their work occurred behind the scenes and was “just” supportive in nature (2 Chr. 35:10-15). All this made this particular Passover an overwhelming success (2 Chr. 35:16-19), one that would cause the people to remember Josiah years after his death (2 Chr. 35:25-27). What a legacy!
Sometimes wonderful events lose their motivational strength because our participation becomes routine rather than focused on the purpose for which the event was designed. This certainly had happened with the Passover! But it can happen to a gospel meeting, a lectureship, or a youth program just as easily. Sadly, we often blame the event, the organizer, or the times instead of considering the possibility that somewhere along the way we just lost the heart for it. Regardless, the good news is, just like Josiah, we can reinvigorate an event or program quickly when we are ready to put in not only our time and our energy, but also our heart. Spiritual events cannot save a congregation dying spiritually, but a spiritual leadership can save dying congregational events.