By Jake Hall
published in Family Matters eNewsletter, April 28, 2016
Do you remember how to do this?
First, you say, “Here is the church.” (fold your hands with fingers inside) Then you show off the steeple. “Here is the steeple.” (put index fingers up to form the steeple of the church) Now, “Open the doors.” (move your thumbs apart to see inside the church) Now for the grand finale, “And see all the people.” (show fingers inside, moving around)
I have always loved that little game. Trying to teach it to my four-year- old has been fun. Usually, it ends with a knot of knuckles and a chuckle or two about the people on the inside of the church made by our hands. There is truth in that. When you perform that simple gesture you get it. The church is comprised of the people that gather there in that place in Jesus’ name. It is a simple reminder, a beautiful thing. Yet, there are limits to that lesson.
We know that the church is more than the building and the steeple, more even than the people who gather in that place. It is the end of that lyric that gnaws at me a bit. Open the doors and there are the people, we say. Is that what we are asking of our neighbors?
Certainly, the life of the church should extend beyond the boundaries of Briarcliff. Consider for a moment those people on the other side of the door or on the other side of town. Do we expect people to come to us? Are we asking the community to take the proactive stance of finding us, of opening our doors in order to discover our life, our ministries, and our work? Aren’t we called to go, called to be a part of the life of our community? Maybe our congregation needs to leave the building in order to open our lives to the lives of those around us. That means we need to leave the building with the intention of being present in the many places where people are making meaning and creating community in Macon.
Lutheran pastor, Keith Anderson notes ministry is moving—and must move—from behind the closed doors of our church buildings into local and digital gathering places where people already gather, make meaning, and live out their faith in daily life. This shift takes us into the everyday sacred places of our community, instead of asking our community to come to our sacred space. Anderson sees these communal opportunities in pubs, coffee shops, commuter train stations, bus stops, college campus sidewalks, local vet’s offices, food trucks, laundromats, as well as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other digital locales.
Being present with intention is the ongoing life of our community, this is the calling of a congregation to its larger parish. Such a shift in locale presents the church with an opportunity to leave the building and to remember that the church is located wherever two or three gather in Christ’s name. So, I ask you, “Where will your ministry at Highland Hills take you?”