Thursday, February 15, 2018

Dear Church Shopper,

Four Christmases. Spyglass Entertainment, 2008.
Over the years, there have been many children who have served as evangelists to their parents. A kid plugs into one of our #kidmin programs, and in no time, the parent who was once a mere wave in a car now joins his child as an essential part of the tribe.

There are usually four  types of persons to which these little evangelists introduce me, and their responses sound something  like this;

Before(now) Branded Beatriz: “I don’t mean to cut you off, but we are already strongly committed to another church.  My son is just coming here to be with his friends. Also, please don’t expect me to play any other role but simply dropping him at your church door, and promptly picking him up at 5:30. One last thing, keep the small talk to a minimum, please.”

Radically Rigid Rick: “Before my family commits, I need to see an exact list of all doctrinal statements that have been explored within your denomination over the past 200 years. I want to assure that we will be on the same page 100% of the time on all theological matters. Oh, and the second that someone implies a spiritual thought that differs from my convictions, we are outta here!”

Hesitantly Hanging Back Hal: “Ok, Lady. You’re puttin' off a real ‘Mandy-Moore-from-Saved’ vibe right now and since I didn’t understand most of the words in that service, I’m just gonna smile ‘til you're done talkin’ and then politely leave. Side-note: I didn't know cults had such good donuts.”

Transparently Toying-with-the-idea Tia: “Hey, can we do coffee sometime? I really would like to chat about church. I am not really sure what questions to ask, but I just believe in my heart that my family needs this. We need to focus on the spiritual side of life, and I want to explore the ways that the church can support us in this.”

As always, I leave each well-intended conversation regretting that I did not say more; hence this letter.

Dear Church Shopper, 

Thank you for all that you withstood to get to church this morning. I am sure you endured wardrobe battles with your kids and there is a (big) chance that walking by our greeter led to an awkward conversation; so for all that you sacrificed to check us out-- thank you.

I know you sense the Divine in your life, and you desire to put words to this experience. You’ve come to the right place.  The church can be extremely helpful in this endeavor.

Now before we go any further, there is something I must first address.  I offer advanced apologies for the behaviors of some that you might meet here. Although Christ is transforming lives in this church, some of us still do or say things that are far from Christ-like. To type frankly, there are a few whack-a-doos and jerks in those pews.  Nothing seems to scare shoppers like yourself away quicker, so they have earned this third paragraph.

All of us come with areas of growth, and some in our church community (like in any community) lack a level of self-awareness that would enable them to improve upon these areas. While we do not condone their actions, Christ calls us to see them through a lens of grace and accountability.

Knowing this does not make them easier to love.  And honestly, some might never be easy to love. However, you did not just enter the “United Church of [that whack-a-doo/jerk you just met in the pew]”; nor is it the “United Church of [that very hypocritical Christian from 9 years ago that ruined organized religion for you]”.

This is the church that follows, worships and seeks to become like Jesus (the) Christ. It’s not about their hypocritical acts (albeit these are distracting to our faith). It’s about who we become when God lovingly molds us.  And we cannot become who we were meant to be alone. We were made for community.

While these souls will be part of your church experience, you will also meet others whose hearts beat for justice and mercy. Those who are seeking to be more and more Christ-like every day. Those who, like you, are seeking to do life with an authentic faith community. Those who will join you through life’s deepest joys and darkest days. Those whose love will remove all doubt that God made you, knows you and lovingly creates an abundant life with and for you. Yes--those people are here too (they’re just two pews back).

Christ-led commitment like this in no way guarantees that we will agree on all theological matters all of the time. However, it is our role as your church staff to equip you to grapple through these moments with grace. While this equipping can happen in other places, the church carries this out through studying the Bible, prayer, worship, fellowship and encouraging your talents through acts of service.

Compared to the rest of your week, some pieces of the church-life might bore you. Realistically, I would like to think that this won’t always be the case. I believe that it will become more soul-nourishing as we grow as a community. I would like to think that as we passionately use our talents to serve others, worshipping together would naturally become more electric. However, this might not always hold true.

Three months might pass, and while you are giving it your all, you might still find certain pieces as stagnant, or even-- life-sucking. In these moments of discontent, God could be using you to catalyze our church forward. Please share these thoughts and feelings with our church staff.

While we are not aiming for boring, we will occasionally aim for different. Some pieces of our service might feel a little (ok-very) foreign to you. For any discomfort--we apologize. It is meant to occasionally feel different because it is meant to be sacred. Unlike the rest of your week where you check-it-off your list or are entertained by it, worship calls for a vulnerable participation.

Worship calls for us to be open to the voice of the Holy One as we remember, anticipate and celebrate the restorative acts of God in our lives. The more we partake in worship the easier it is for us to hear this voice throughout our week. Consider Sunday morning as a volume knob. The more you partake, the louder the voice of God resounds in and through your life.

So wear whatever you want, be in whatever mood you want and try turning that knob with us this Sunday.  God has already been speaking to you and we would be delighted to join you in that conversation.

Hopefully & Happily,
Your Church Staff