Recently a former pastor said to me, “I appreciate what you’re doing. I’ve been there, done that —going door-to-door, trying to get people to come to church. I know what it’s like.”
My stomach turned. The last thing I want to do is grow “Club Church.” Get people to become a member. Pay their dues. Receive “club member benefits.” Learn the secret handshake. Yeah, I’ve been there, done that, too. And frankly, I got sick of it.
If I go “door-to-door” in our little church’s community, it’s not to grow "the church club"–it’s to build the Kingdom of God. When I look at a person, I don’t want to see merely a potential new church member; I want to see a new citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. Because I happen to believe that, without God, we can’t live life the way it was meant to be lived.
We say these things, those of us who understand what the church really is (it’s “people,” people!) But here’s the thing: I want to mean it. In my heart of hearts, I want no walls of any kind when it comes to relating to others. I want to like people for who they are, not for what they can offer, inside or outside the building and all the policy and politics that come with it.
But how do you do that? How do you maintain loving and transparent relationships within the context of necessary church structure? How do you see past the four walls and keep enjoying people —inside or outside the walls —simply for who they are?
Some would say you leave the building. Here’s a news flash: Jesus taught in the synagogue, daily. Talk about manmade tradition! He sat there, listening to those narrow-minded bigots read about Him while denying Him at the same time. But He stayed, because that’s where the people were. “The institution” was the platform His Father gave Him for teaching the truth. Standing up in the temple, reading from the scrolls–those were simply the vehicle for his message: “I have come to give you life outside these walls!”
Don’t get me wrong; Jesus also reached those outside the synagogue. In whatever context they could be reached–whether on a hillside or in the temple–Jesus reached people. That’s why there’s a place for home church, beach church, coffee shop church and church-church. The fact is, some people go looking for God in church-church. I’m going to join them there.
So. I’m not leaving the church. But I am quitting the church–at least, the church as we know it. And quitting is a process. I still find myself, too often, engaged in “club mentality:” We need more help. We need this or that program. We need, need, need, need, need. For what? To grow the club? Rubbish!
We need God’s presence, and we need it now. To love each other better, so we can grow His Kingdom together and change this crazy world.