This week I have spent yesterday and today in a Church hall hidden in the back of a graveyard, trying to do a 24-7 style prayer room.
Yesterday lady popped into the prayer room to ask about getting her baby christened, and I thought had she have come another day, she’d have probably found locked doors and eventually been able to leave a message on an answerphone…
It made me think too, as have been joined in prayer this morning by two wonderful prayer warriors from the Sanctuary Church, and often find that people just want to pray, have space and haveca quiet moment to just “be” in churches… but yet too often we as Church literally “shut up” from Monday to Saturday. Or we hire someone else’s building so ‘disappear’…
What struck me, is how often are churches are locked up, and the vicars “hidden” away from our communities.
Last week I was(talking to one lady a fortnight ago and described me as “under cover” because I wasn’t wearing my dog collar as I thought about it, “undercover” was the last thing I wanted to be. My dad’s favourite bible verse is “I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe…” I began to think the Church was birthed behind closed doors with the disciples locked in the upper room, scared of the religious authorities, and yet when the Holy Spirit came, they unlocked the doors and went into the city centre market place proclaiming Christ.
Too often our Churches look like we have come from before Pentecost rather than after it, we have often become a hidden minority retreated from the world we are called to impact and transform, yet I pray the Spirit will once again fill us and cause us to share Christ with those we meet. Let the Spirit be unlocked in our Churches, and lets not keep him to ourselves like a ‘private party of the exclusive members club”, but go and share the good news of Christ with those who are in the cit, in the market place.
This made me wonder in our context whether:
… Too often we are invisible in the communities we are trying to reach.
… Almost locking the gospel, the good news, behind closed doors.
I thought about all these locked up Churches in darkness. This image really struck me, when God called me to plant Street Pastors in Salisbury (my previous parish, the auto correct changed it to my precious parish) I saw that the Churches were in darkness when literally hundreds of young people were pouring into/out of the pubs, bars and clubs all around them and yet the only thing the Churches offered was odd shaped buildings to urinate against!
I don’t want the local Church to be invisible, but visible, and I believe God doesn’t either.
I don’t want the local Church to be a faceless institution, but a loving approachable one… I love the Foodbank where people are welcomed with warmth, and a coffee and a cake, thinking this is putting a loving human face on the faceless institution of the Church… Welcoming in for practical help, love, compassion and reflecting Jesus to his community.
Just like street pastors, when choosing in Salisbury what to do about mission to the night time economy there were a number of projects we could have signed up for, but when I went on line to check out the web page I came across the line for Street Pastors which said “Church in Action on the Street”… This literally made my heart beat faster.
Church, not a faceless institution behind closed doors, or a soul-less answerphone message but Church that comes to you!
Church, that meets you in the gutter, rather than when you have spruced yourself up for a Sunday morning,
Church that is not about the building but rather the mobiles spirit filled Missional people of God living out their faith in everyday life.
It has been often said the challenge is not to “go to Church” (although attending some is challenging) the real challenge is to BE the Church.
Be where real people are at (so often it is a real fight to try and get our Church people to turn up to big community events, in fact trying to stop them putting on a rival event is a challenge!).
Often we walk in to Church and the building and the welcome have the same lack of warmth, when people come to Church they are told they can’t park here, our Church kitchens are mass of messages telling you to keep your hands off their teabags etc… We think we gave made the Church for sinners and broken people feel like a we weekend at the mother in laws… Businesses pay millions to think about their shop window and the message it sends to the community, at yet if they do notice us and wander in do they encounter the extravagant grace-filled welcome of Jesus?
Thinking too of our Church buildings, locked up most of the time, if made me think are we more scared of a vandalism than people meeting with God?
I can’t remember who but some bishop somewhere once asked a PCC (who are the local custodians of “their” religious building) asking “why have you stolen this building from your community?” This idea that our building are tools, given to the community to help the community hear and follow Christ… Resources the Church has to connect with their community and lovingly introduce people to their Saviour.
So, let’s be the Church, let’s be visible, welcome and loving, discovering both hospitality and meeting people where they are at with love.
Let’s unlock to doors.
Lets inviting people to “Come and See” whilst reaching out with “Go and tell”.