I'm going to ask a couple of questions, and then answer different parts of them in a series of posts over the next few weeks. Here is the first question:
"Is church something I go to on Sundays?"
I am leader in a church. I listen to podcasts and go to conferences where other church leaders talk about the themes of church leadership, what's working well, what's not, and how to follow Jesus with all you are. It's easy for leaders to either keep doing what we've always done (hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it), or want to throw rocks at the church and in frustration take pride in a desire to storm out the door of "traditional" church and be more "real," or whatever.
Those discussions have a place and can be super helpful.
We live in the South, and I rarely meet people who have zero experience with church. Most folks here have had at least a little exposure to church life somewhere along the way. And they drive past lots of churches all throughout the city. And those who are not now vitally connected to a church are voting with their lives that "church life" is not for them.
There are lots of possible reasons for that. Part of what I think is missing for many people is a visible, breathing, person in their life who demonstrates church is not just a meeting you attend where you watch as leaders sing or teach. Church is not a club you join. Church is not an event you attend. Church is not a set of beliefs you ascribe to. A church is a family, a spiritual family, seeking to connect with God and each other. A church is this spiritual family seeking to be a part of God's amazing love story where He meets messed up people right where they are, mess and all, and brings freedom. And He uses His Church to accomplish this.
I like gathering as a church. A lot! We usually call this a "Church Service." I can't remember many times I walked away from one and didn't feel blessed to be there. I'll say it: I love church gatherings! Going, participating, putting them on, speaking at them. Oh yeah!
But there is something more than attending gatherings.
Anytime we face the need to change, it's scary. And unless the change was our own idea, we usually resist.
I was just looking on my Facebook feed for a quick picture to put on this post, and I found this one from last semester. My bro, Willie King, is a classroom mentor, and some of the kids from a class he worked with got parent permission and came and helped do a "dash for trash" at a nearby neighborhood. We made 4 trips to this neighborhood, and the kids learned some cool things about working together. It was fun.
That picture can be a decent little metaphor for "something more". There's a black dude arm-in-arm with a white dude. That means we must have some things in common that are greater than the things we have that separate. We're not standing at either person's church property. And the picture wasn't taken before or after a church gathering. It's in a neighborhood, at a park. And the sign we are standing in front of tells simple and compelling story:
You are the vehicle for our city to be different.
You, church, are the means by which renewal will come. The folks who have voted with their lives not to be vitally connected to a church are not expecting us to do this. What they are are expecting from us, well, can I say this...they are expecting us to have a lot of meetings, to invite them to our meetings once in a while, and for us to be against some things when it comes election time.
I don't hear people outside the church saying they are expecting church people to be positive, life-giving, generous, willing to sacrifice, loving, listening, humble, and serving. They aren't usually talking bad about church people; they just aren't thinking about us much at all.
There is something more: A whole life of learning to follow Jesus in his way of love, grace and truth. Jesus said these markers were the signs of His new Kingdom. And when people who don't know Jesus yet see these markers, they start expecting more good news, which is exactly what Jesus brings.
paul, on mission for Lake Charles
P.S. We'll unpack this more as we go, but to keep us on the same page, I am NOT talking about burning out for Jesus. I'm NOT taking about being an over-the-top zealot who is constantly talking about church. I am NOT talking about bring at a Bible study or service project every night. I am NOT talking about the church being a place for people who have overcome all their problems and are now ready to give back - NO, the church is a spiritual family EXACTLY FOR people who have huge problems and need God to provide remedy. Jesus said his burden was easy. Let's explore this together