Dear Church Member,
Let me start by saying that you mean lots to me. I see you each week. You are the one I sit next to on Sunday morning. You are the one serving faithfully in the children's program when I drop off my kiddos. You make the coffee I drink and place the cookies that my kids eat on platters so beautifully. You pass out the bulletins, open the doors, stand outside and greet me, play in the worship band, run the sound, video, take offering, pray for those in need, lead a Sunday school class, or you sit in the last row of the balcony. Hello there. I have been thinking lots about you. Lots about me. Lots about the church.
I am a grown church girl. You know the kind. I was at church at least twice a week since birth. I played in the bell choir (I can hold two bells in each hand. I know. I'm gifted. We went on tour. We were a big deal). On Sunday mornings you could find me laying on my parents bed, legs in the air, so my Mom could stuff on my tights. I played the Lion when we did a musical about Daniel. My parents were on the board of directors, orchestrating greeters, hosting at our home, leading small groups, teaching pre-marital classes. You know the kind. That's me. Hi.
In many ways, grown up church girl is just the way to say it. I grew up. IN church. Inside those walls. Learning how to be a "church girl" for all the "church folks". But then, the hard part is that all the church folks in my first church as a little girl were actually humans. And humans aren't perfect. And there was hurt. And we left that church. So church became an ever evolving thing for me. We were new to a church when I was in high school so the planting of my feet didn't really happen and in college Navigators became my church. Then when I graduated I was on my own. Not knowing exactly what to look for in a church. Not really knowing what I wanted in a church. Not really knowing what church meant biblically really but not brave enough to ask. So I went to church. Because I learned really good on the ways to be and not be. And yet somehow didn't really understand what had been done for me. And that- the what had been done for me, that should be why I go to church. And that is why I should be out of the church too.
Now, don't get me wrong. We need bell choirs, greeters, teachers, leaders, worshippers, baby holders, marriage encouragers, coffee brewers. We need you. You are important. You are necessary. But I just wonder if we have become a little bit like insiders. Trained up insiders. Trained up seat warmers. Trained up people who worship and listen to great sermons. People who leave on a Sunday inspired but not changed. Or dare I say, people who leave church on Sunday so tired, over extended, and not happy with our kids who are losing it because you wouldn't allow them the third cookie. Because, church member, I have been convicted lately that all I just said up there describes me too. And I had to stop to ask myself, is this the mission of the church? You know. The one that was started by those radical disciples. That rag tag team of men who really had no credentials and never once filled out a spiritual gift survey. They just spoke of the Messiah they knew, loved, followed, trusted, and had reigning over their life. And they went to people who didn't know Him. And they even died for Him.
I have to ask myself if I know people who don't know Jesus. I mean really. And am I honestly thinking they are going to stumble into our church one day? Or am I positioned to see them?
The answer is yes.
I am totally positioned to see them.
But do I see them?
Do I want to see them?
Wouldn't it be easier if they just came to a Sunday school class and I could sit next to them. You know.
For 45 minutes.
Is that the kind of love and passion I have for Jesus?
One thing I need to mention is the many ways my parents taught me church outside of a building with a steeple. You see, as I was thinking and working through this whole church tension I feel now, the Lord reminded me. He reminded me that maybe I had forgotten parts of my church story. I instantly remembered the many nursing homes and hospitals my Dad took me to on a Sunday. We would go to church, pick up the traveling communion, and visit members who couldn't get to church. My Dad would talk with them, touch their hands, pray for them, and give them communion. At my young age I had no idea how meaningful it probably was for them. My Dad has a way of making people feel really important when he is talking with them. Reminding them of their worth. Little did I know my Dad was teaching me church. My Mom created a home that always had an extra chair at the table. We had people in our home all the time for meals. We even had people live with us who needed a place to stay. Most Sundays when we weren't at The Princess Garden for lunch, you would find us at home with an amazing Pot Roast in the crock pot and random people my parents said, "come on over" to that morning. Holidays were not exclusive to family. Actually, every holiday, my Mom made sure people who had no where to go, they knew our home was their place to go. My Mom (and Dad too) has an incredible way of making people feel comfortable really quickly. She has a gift for finding that one person who needs someone to see them....I see that in my daughter Savanah. Little did I know that my Mom was teaching me church.
I wonder if we truly said that we were going to not just sing the songs, hear the sermon, maybe take some notes, and volunteer......but we decided that we were going to act as though we really are marked. We really are transformed. We really have the Holy Spirit living within us, that same Spirit that raised our Savior from the dead. That by Thursday we will still be as fired up about our Savior as we were just days ago. That maybe we think backwards.
We roll into church as fragile clay jars.
Walking in hard pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed.
We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.
We are knocked down, but we are not destroyed.
We said yes each time He placed someone in front of us that needed His love.
Maybe we share a few battle stories from the week.
And then, we send back out.
Because we have been called.
We have been anointed.
We have been commissioned to take the good news to those who don't know it.
So, dear church member, I just wanted to process through this place we go to each week. I wonder if there are others of you who might be feeling this tension with me. Because the resurrection changes everything. If it didn't happen, then really, our weekly church going is just foolish. Please know, I'm not leaving church. I love our church. I love the people. I love the pastors. I love the heart. I just want to ask myself if I am raising kids who will only know church within the walls of a building. And, maybe even bigger, have I resoluted myself to experiencing church within the walls of a building. That maybe I might even admit it can feel clunky to go to the people on the margins. It can feel messy to love those who will never be able to return that love. And, being completely honest, that in those moments of clunky and messy, I might want to run back into a building where it is programmed. Filled with people who mostly think like me.
But maybe, there are those of you who do feel the tension. And maybe want to start feeling clunky and messy with me. Because, I am sure, all those dinners my Mom hosted left big messes for her to clean. Probably a few stains on the carpet. I mean, my Mom used cloth napkins people! But it brought home to those who needed it. And I am sure going to hospitals and nursing homes didn't always smell pretty or look pretty. But it sure did bring beauty to broken places.
So, here's to rethinking the definition to church. Here's to wondering where my first yes to clunky and messy might be so the beauty of Christ is seen to those who may never enter our safe building. Or maybe for those, who like me, didn't always think church was a safe building. Maybe we can redefine that for them on the outside of the building in order for them to feel being on the inside is safe, as it was for me. And in a bigger way, it can be redefined for us....that we might see ourselves as a ragtag team that God has placed here for a time such as right now. Because if we were honest, we are all clunky and messy to love. We are just a rag tag team who is so in love with their Messiah. A rag tag team that has been transformed by the free gift of undeserved favor. And it is that grace that compels us to say yes to each thing or person or place He puts in front of us each day.
May we begin to crave the clunky. The messy. The Church.
A Clunky messy church girl