Sunday, November 25, 2007

may: the truth about my church

When are you going to show up, Lord?
Some days, I sit in one place simply waiting for the Lord to show up. Other days I am on a journey. My walk, as they say. Making choices between the narrow gate that leads to life and the wide gate that leads to destruction. And when I get lost (and actually notice that I’m lost) I simply say “show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths.”

In the month of May, we learn in Today at the Mission that Jesus appears in many places… and we need to be vigilant if we are to realize when and where he steps into our lives.
We’ve focused our entire spiritual lives on the assumption that the bricks and mortar of our church building is the place of sanctification, the place of redemption, the seat of Christ’s transforming power when in fact the cross is found outside the City of God.
For most of my adult life, I belonged to the Church of the Holy Convenience. Show up for Easter. Christmas. Your child’s Baptism. Maybe a few Sunday’s thrown in between. Then something funny happened. One Sunday during Mass I heard the voice of God. In church of all places!

I went back for three weeks in a row… and there was silence. Deafening silence. Yo God, where did you go, dude?

And then I did something I had never done before. One Sunday, I stepped into another church. And there He was.

Hey Mikey, I think he likes it. How about some more?

In the movie The Matrix, there’s a scene where Tank is taking Neo through his first training programs – where he becomes turbo-infused with knowledge. And he can’t get enough. And for the first year at my new church, I felt the same way. Sunday service. Wednesday night service. Bible study. Bring it on!

And study was followed with ministry teams. Volunteering at Sunday services. Which was followed by community service. Small groups. Then leadership teams.

And then one day you wake up and you feel something different… like the four walls of this church are holding me back. That putting so many resources and dollars into an hour on Sunday was missing the point. That the cross is outside… beyond the gates of the church… “in the wild and desolate place” we call our community… the place [rwk] refers to as “the place of anguish, of humiliation and shame.”
What matters most to God is the person sitting across the table from me right now.
So I stop going to my weekly men’s group and start volunteering at the local senior center. When my time on the church management team came to and end, I was excited… because it freed up time for me to volunteer at the community access station of our local cable channel.

To be honest… there were a few weeks recently when I was down on my church… on its leadership… and what it was (and wasn’t) doing. But I was wrong.

The truth is… I don’t belong to a missional church in that we don’t participate in many community service projects and we don’t give church money to the poor. But I do belong to a church that produces people who are becoming more missional in their own lives. Like Scott, Chris, Kevin, Stacee, Chris, Ginny, Erin and many, many more. Last week, for example, I emailed Scott if he could help me on a project that involved getting out among the public, and his reply said it all: "Since this feels like a stretch for me -- I'm in."

So whenever I sit in church now and ask, “When are you going to show up, Lord?” I am comforted by a simple fact that was recorded by a cook in a homeless shelter:
The amazing thing is – sooner or later – He always does.


Kansas Bob said...

"the Church of the Holy Convenience"

That is funny because we can all relate.. but for some it is named Inconvenience :)

I liked your heart in this post Ed.. came across real and compassionate.. it reminded me of my thinking when I got involved in prison ministry. Evangelicals sometimes don't get this idea that caring for the sick, the poor and imprisoned is the real stuff.. even if you can't do it on Sunday :)

Anonymous said...

show up.
yes. he always does...

smack dab in the middle!

good post, brother!

Ed G. said...

KB -- to share a quick story, six years ago I couldn't drag my children to church... but now if we're away for the weekend, they all want to know "are we going to make it home in time for church?"... and for that I am very thankful. But I think everyone eventually gets to a point in their walk with Christ where you can't rely on the church for nourishment anymore... you sort of have to learn how to feed yourself.

Nancy -- we both know that God always shows up... but there's still a lot of times when we try to go at it alone, isn't there. Do you think I'll ever grow up?

Anonymous said...

yes, there are many times a day that i try to go it alone. God is very gracious and speaks to my heart.

He is with me all the day and when i look to Him he fills me with what i need.

and this is my view...

the church is Spiritual, the Holy Spirit lives in us, so the Chruch lives in us and through us as believers in the Son of God. the chruch is living and living in us, it moves with us, it speaks through us, it Loves through us. we might gather together to worship, but, the church comes and goes with us. it goes into the world for worship, praise, loving, helping, sharing. we can not see the church as just a building or just people, it is Spiritual and living in us and through us. Because of Jesus, we now can worship Spirit and in Truth, and God can work through His church that is not contained to a temple, building, or one group of people. we are free to move about and free to gather the Spirit.

Kansas Bob said...

I agree with this Ed..

"have to learn how to feed yourself"

..unfortunately many churches build "teaching" ministries that foster unhealthy dependence on the pulpit.