4 Things to Learn When the Lights Go Out

Apart from being a nuisance, a power outage taught this church four invaluable lessons about community.

Recently, the lights went out at our Mt. Pleasant Campus. All of them. For a very long time. Three and one half hours, to be exact. Fun times.

Oh, I’ve been in the dark for longer periods of time, but never with so many people.

The electricity went off halfway into the opening set of the first service and returned halfway through the message in the third service.

Four things I learned when the lights went out:

1. Without light, you become more aware of the little things.

We tend to take things for granted until they are taken away.

I was in a small bathroom off of the space we affectionately call the “bullpen.” It’s the place where speakers gather their thoughts before giving the message.

The fact that I was in a bathroom is probably more information than you are comfortable with, but here’s what I suddenly became aware of:

a. How dark the darkness is. Darkness is really dark when there is no light. What I would have given for even just a little light. Rule of thumb—never enter a bathroom without your cell phone.

b. Thank God for Jesus who pierces the darkness!

c. Paper towel dispensers work without electricity. There is no spiritually redeeming value to this observation, but it was interesting to me. Even in the dark, you can wash your hands and then wave them under the paper towel dispenser. Pretty cool.

2. Desperation can trigger creativity and innovation.

We originally learned this lesson about 13 years ago when a “no” from our city led to a desperate innovation called multisite.

When the lights went out, we were about five minutes away from a live transfer of video to 12 campuses and two venues when a sudden lack of electricity triggered innovation everywhere.

a. The worship team kicked into acapella mode.

b. Campuses shifted to their backup system: Saturday night’s recorded message.

c. Nursery classes moved outdoors.

d. Tech teams cobbled together battery operated work lights and a recently purchased portable sound system.

e. Venue Pastor Michael Morris—a 20-year friend—took my notes and preached heaven down in the Chapel. He knows me so well, he even delivered my Debbie illustrations with credibility!

f. First Touch volunteers shuffled thousands of attenders in and out around large fire doors that automatically close when the electricity goes out.

I was amazed at how quickly and smoothly innovation began to happen.

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Greg Surratt
Greg Surratt is the founding pastor of Seacoast Church, one of the earliest adopters of the multi-site model. Located in Mt. Pleasant, SC, Seacoast has been recognized by various media as an innovative and influential thought leader in future strategies for church growth and development. Greg is also a founding board member of the Association of Related Churches.