Getting the message out there is one of the biggest challenges our church now faces.
I’m not talking about writing more books, generating more web activity, stimulating more communal outreach or seeking more media attention. I’m talking about planting the unique vision that God has given our church into the whole community.
Deeply. So that it can really grow!
How can we help people engage God everywhere more: at work, in their families, with their friends, at leisure, in the theater, via nature, through their bodies, when they eat and drink, when they enjoy art, read books, and do all of the things that make up their lives?
Last night I spent two hours meeting with two guys who are big into automotive restoration. On June 12 I’m preaching a vocational sermon on what they do; on how they image God’s "strip it down, rebuild from the inside out, better than it was before" heart. While the topic was fascinating, what I enjoyed most was the interaction, the conversation, and the epiphany moments when they’d say one thing and I’d hear another.
Two days ago one of these guys sent me a text telling me how excited he was to learn about how God was at work through the automotive restoration process.
Sitting there last night, on an old Volkswagen van bench seat, in the corner of a garage, that’s exactly what happened.
As each of them would talk about what they did and why they did it, I made God connections; naming God’s presence at that moment when they first saw a wreck that could be made new, when they made that hard decision to cut into the body to make it better, when they ripped the guts out of the vehicle, when the dreamt about how amazing that car or truck could one day be, when the poured their life into the renewal process, using every bit of creative energy they had, letting it pour from their brains to their hands in a turbo charged kind of way, and then coming up with that new engine, body or component configuration, that new automotive finish, that new frame, level of horse power, way of handling, look, sound, smell and feel.
“Well that’s like when God showed the prophet Ezekiel those dry bones…that’s what resurrection is all about…that’s what God must feel when he makes things new…”
It was an amazing visit.
And it made me wonder if this is the way it needs to happen; getting the vision out there. One on one, personally entering into the lives of community members, meeting them at their work, in their homes, or at the gym, and naming God’s presence in their lives right there, on the spot, just in time, via a personal, intimate, intentional, Spirit-led conversation.
This happens all the time for me. Last week in a coffee shop with a concerned father (“Well God must feel that for your daughter too…what would it mean to know God as he feels this with you?”), with a judge in his chambers (“I think your decision to give verbal judgments so that you can look people in the eye when you speak to them, and sometimes modify your judgment based on that relational moment, is like a God who incarnates, who looks at us when he judges.”), with a PhD scientist talking gut biome, a nurse talking technology, a Wal-Mart greeter, an athlete.
So what if New Hope Hillside spent the next two years investing in people who could do this for others; maybe staff members or key leaders or people who we don’t even know yet, individuals who would enter into the lives of others in these kinds of ways. Individuals who could incarnate.
I feel as though I can see it. A person called to name God at work in moms, others with vocational exegetical gifts, and still others who have the eyes and ears for the arts, community, sports and leisure.
While on one hand, this seems incredibly inefficient, on the other it seems perfect. I’ve got to think that those two hours with those two guys last night, engaging God in what they are most passionate about, on their turf, in their time, may have more and lasting impact than years of Sunday services or church classes.
Every person in our community is unique. Would it take this kind of process, this kind of coming along side engagement to get the message across? Is lovingly engaging people where they are at the only way to get close enough to see and name what God uniquely wants them to see?