Every Thursday morning begins with an obstacle course. Rain or shine…..snow or sweat. I strap on my running shoes, help my toddler into our jogging stroller, leash up the frantic and exuberant dog and out we go. Up the curb….down the curb into the street…..quick jog on the grass….back to the sidewalk. We dodge giant yellow recycling bins and large trash cans that magically appear each Wednesday evening and appear like obstacles in the way of our normally smooth, uninterrupted path. Maybe I’m nosy, but it’s interesting to see what people are discarding each week. You can learn a lot about a person by what they throw out. This house eats only organic. Nobody cooks in that house…look at all the carry out. The house across the street just got a new swing set. The house at the end of the street just celebrated a birthday. I know these are fairly basic things and one can’t make overwhelming assumptions about a person’s life based solely on the contents of their recycling and trash bins, but what’s inside does reveal snippets of the owner’s lives.
What do people think when they pass by your church and happen to glance in the recycling bins or dumpsters? Do they see the remains of your potluck luncheon and surmise you are a hospitable church that enjoys fellowship? Do they see old flowers, remnants of art projects and know that you are conscious of visuals? Do they see hundreds of paper cups and paper plates that need to be replenished and discarded each week?
Say they picked up a bulletin. What would they think about the church upon first glance? Take a moment to look over your order of worship with new eyes and see how it might appear to an un-churched person or someone from another religious background. Is there a healthy liturgical balance—acknowledging our transcendent and all-powerful God yet a God who is immanently close to us and knows us completely? Do you take time in your service to confess sins or corporately lament? Where do your offerings go? Do you publically welcome visitors? Is there enough information disseminated each week to newcomers who are interested in more information about you and your ministry? What does your order of worship each week say about you and your church?
Our church in Washington DC actively seeks to engage in and be a light to the community around us. We are located in more or less a completely residential neighborhood so our neighbors on all sides are families, couples and elderly. Next Thursday, I’m looking in our bins. I challenge you to do the same!