On an early morning run one day this week, I strode past the front of our church. It was still dark, the sky in the east barely turning to pale blue. Lights shone on the front of our white building, stained glass windows bright against the dark sky. A cross was illuminated on the front of the building.
The church is at the top of a long, slight hill, so my pace was slow. I run this route by the church often, but I rarely take-in the view as I go by. A church building is an intriguing thing to study… There are walls and a roof, just like any other building. But people perceive its existence in many different ways… indifference, hope, frustration, curiosity.
A group of leaders spent the last 12 months discerning the vision and mission of our church. It was an intentional, prayerful, time-consuming process. With some lags along the way, we are finally ready to present this work to the church body. Our leader was a former bishop; a powerful leader in the church. He shared many stories, including a few that I heard him tell on multiple occasions. One such story was of a conversation with a cab driver as they navigated through a larger city. As they drove past a church, the driver (knowing his passenger was clergy) pointed to the building and said: “Now here is a church that knows how to make a difference in the community!” The cab driver went on to explain the service and mission work he had witnessed from this church – a place he had no direct connection with. We must strive to be like this church!
But as I gazed at the church building on my run that early morning, it did not seem alive; it looked still, dormant. This goal of becoming a place that strangers point out in admiration seemed an impossible feat!
To be fair, it was just before 6:00 am. So – I’m not sure what exactly I expected to see happening there! The feeling I experienced more likely rests in my overall stress about the presentation of our mission and vision planning.
I continued to run past the church, and my human anxiety spiraled out of control! What if they don’t understand? What if they think our work was a waste of time?! What if no one is willing to step-up and lead us to action?!?
I’ve said it before – the compounding stress created by the human mind is a dangerous place to dwell!!
Slow, calming breaths… quiet the mind, steady the heart. I pondered the purpose of church and our role in the world. We are called to be God’s presence in the world; to witness to who God is, and to show a servant-relationship to all we encounter. We do not do this alone! Immanuel – God is with us!!
Though at times the church seems broken and dormant, God will use us – I mean REALLY use us – when we let go of our human need to control and give up our human tendency to resist change and keep the status quo. We are called to love, to serve. It should be simple!!
With grace, shared vision and hard work, a strong community rooted in faith emerges, and it will make a difference in our community and the world!