good things

From the inside it is easy to see where we get it wrong— the politics, the wrangling for position or power or favor, the petty struggles over tradition, the longing for when things were better (often in some distant memory long since scrubbed of any dirt or darkness). The church can be a difficult place to find a home, especially when you are charged with its care. Ministers can be a lonely bunch and ministry can be a lonely lifestyle depending on the congregations we choose to serve. However, there are churches and programs and people that do get it.

Many people found within the walls of churches have large wonderful cavernous hearts. They are lights on the hill that could never be hidden no matter how hard you try. They are volunteers who show up time after time, not out of a sense of duty, but because they hear the call just as surely as any trained minister would. These are people who lead classes, sing in choirs, serve on sessions or boards or committees. They are the ones who make sure that communion is set up and the candles are lit and the heat works on Sunday mornings. They are the reason the church still works and will continue working.

There are churches whose mission is to reach out to people. I am not talking about evangelism; in fact evangelism is one of the things wrong with the church today. I am talking about churches that care for their communities regardless of how the community is categorized. There are churches who advocate, who offer helping hands, who give of the very soul that lives within the community. These churches don’t offer services with the stipulation that someone “come to Jesus.” They offer services because that is what Jesus told them to do regardless of who the person is or what they might believe.

There are churches who faithfully stretch the limits of worship, ushering in new forms of praise and penance and preaching. They stretch their arms wide and cast a net of many voices, giving way to art and dance and song and laughter, all the while focusing their eyes on the God that dwells above, among and within them. These churches think through what they do, not only trying to communicate with the culture around them, but doing so in a way that does not rape the tradition from which they come.

There are churches that excel at reaching out to one another, creating lasting bonds that embrace, envelope, and encourage all who happen to wander within the walls. These are the comfortable communities that don’t allow you to be complacent. They are the places where people come to grow and doubt and stretch their faith. Here people find a safe place to look at the faith of the faithful and laugh, cry, and hope.

There are churches who don’t take themselves too seriously. These churches know the Bible and know its limitations. These churches know their traditions and know the need for change. They hear the voice in the wilderness and run to meet it with joy and thanksgiving. The people of these churches always start their prayers with thanks and end with hope, for they know that the love of God knows no bounds.

There are good people, good churches doing good things. Maybe the best things about these houses of holy is that they are horrible at marketing, they find no use for clever postcards or combat witnessing, they stink at building campaigns because they waste their money on helping those in need, and they are horrible at bullet-point theology. To find these places that soothe the soul and comfort our afflictions, places that hug and hope and hold, that pray and worship and serve we must look hard. Sometimes they are found in large congregations, and sometimes small congregations hold the keys to the kingdom.

We know it when we find it though, something just feels real, maybe almost too real. The question is: are we willing to risk reality for the sake of the relationship offered to us? Are we willing to wade through our own darkness to embrace the light that surrounds us? Can we chance that we don’t know all of the answers, we may never know all of the answers, and that is good enough for our lives?

grace and peace



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