Let me present to you a situation that has served as a microcosm to me – you may find it laughable (and that is okay) but it is something I take somewhat seriously.
There is a massive sphere of dirt and water floating in our galaxy, and it’s called earth. Somewhere on earth, there’s a big land mass called the United States of America. In that land mass, there’s a section of land called Kentucky. Somewhere inside of Kentucky there’s a city called Lexington. Lexington has a lot of streets, one of which is called South Broadway. There’s a Starbucks that sits at the corner of South Broadway Street and Virginia Avenue. There are a bunch of houses-turned-apartments on the street behind that Starbucks, the street they call South Broadway Park. The third building behind Starbucks has four apartments in it, and the one with the front door is my apartment. There’s a room in my apartment that’s somewhat small, and when I moved, I thought it would be my “study.” I set up a couch, put in all of my bookshelves, and intended to keep it relatively un-cluttered so that I could use the room to read, to write, write music, and do other things with my brain.
But then my bedroom got cluttered and I started putting the excess junk into the study.
Then I got a dog who liked to pee on the rug in the study, so I had to either not go in the study or leave my dog in the other room and listen to him howl.
Then work started having a bunch of extra boxes, and I told them that I could store them in the spare room in my apartment.
So now, I don’t really use that room. It sits full of boxes, cluttered with clothes and already-worn outfits, books sitting on top of shelves from when I bought them and never organized them onto my shelf. Movies piled from all of the times I took a stack of films for me and Julie to choose from when we watched something at her house. Nothing’s clean. Nothing’s organized. It’s chaos. It’s the antipathy of concentration, focus, and mental labor.
It’s a room for which I had a plan, and that plan fell apart. It didn’t do what I meant for it to do, what I always thought it would do, what I’d always hoped it would do.
And I know it’s horribly cliché to go this route, but I will – that room makes me think so much because it makes me think of myself. It makes me think of my own story and my own journey. And I know I’ve told it a thousand times over the course of the last eight months, but I probably will continue to as I continue to digest the reality of where I am and to figure out the trajectory of where I’m going.
Perhaps the spin of the story today is about finding my place in the church again, but also a few other questions such as – which church? Where’s it going to be? Should we just start something ourselves instead of bedding into a new place?
A year ago today, I had just finished preaching a series with the help of my pastor. I was leading worship from time to time, and playing guitar nearly every Sunday morning. I taught a children’s church class every few Sundays. I was on the council that met once a month to make financial decisions for the church.
Fast forward to today, and I’m sitting at Starbucks on a Sunday morning, drinking a latte, writing a blog. I’ve been to eight churches in eight months, I’ve been to church alone, I’ve been to church with friends. I’ve been to liturgical churches (Presbyterian or Methodist) and I’ve been to more mainstream, modern churches with lights and loud music. I’ve gone to churches where I know people and to churches where I knew nobody.
Aaaaaaaaand I still don’t know where to go here in town.
I think about it regularly, but especially the more I listen to podcasts, and especially when I listen to podcasts about church, and ESPECIALLY when the podcasts about church are talking about their issues with church and the things they didn’t like, and the things they do like, and the things they want to change.
I try to think about the type of church I want, and on top of that, I try to think about whether I should try to find something tailor-made, try to MAKE something tailor-made (as in start my own church) or if I should be the one who’s tailor-made by the Holy Spirit to where I accept a church for its style, traditions, etc.
And, the other thing I weigh in my mind in this day and age is this question:
How much time and space is there for our own preferences in a church when the urgency of Jesus’ mission is still at hand?
That is, the Christian culture I’ve found myself resonating with lately is that of questioning, one of doubts, one of re-thinking everything, one where transformation occurs within the church, almost as though we’re a caterpillar in a cocoon turning into a butterfly. We’re looking to become more genuine, more transparent, to deal with hurts, to deal with questions, to deal with all of the mistakes and failures of church leaders for years past, and I for one LOVE that. But – and perhaps it’s just me – I feel as though when I’m in that world and in that mode of thinking, I’m only thinking of myself. I’m primarily concerned about myself and my own relationship with Jesus, my own safety, my own health, my own happiness, etc.
I’m busy asking questions like
-what can I get away with?
-what all has the church gotten wrong for years?
-what’s wrong with us?
-what’s important doctrine and what’s not?
I could think of more questions, but I’d sum them up with this one:
Does mission give way to reformation?
Or, perhaps, as I’m hoping, reformation makes way for mission.
Maybe what will really make Christianity appealing to the world is if the church struggles with her own misgivings, if the church admits her own faults, if the church examines itself first.
Maybe we’re actually overthinking mission? Maybe mission happens when Christians have honest conversations, when we’re in the bars and not just the coffee shops, when we’re reading the science books and not just the theology textbooks, when we’re listening to the bands on the radio and not just the bands they play over the speakers at the Christian bookstores.
When we do finally embody that idea of being in the world, but not of the world.
In my humble opinion, that doesn’t hold true for a lot of people. We aren’t of the world, but in a lot of cases, we aren’t even in the world. it’s like the old phrase goes, “he’s too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good!”
Maybe mission happens when we’re on the cutting edge of justice, relief, creativity, and culture without being overt about it and labeling it. When the fruits of our beliefs bleeds into the work of our hands – maybe that’s when mission occurs?
But, I don’t know. I’m not God. I’m still finding a place in this crazy world, and I hope I do Jesus the most honor in doing so.