I recently read an article from a pastor who was recounting a relatively normal “start to his day.” He shared that before he ever got into the church office he crossed paths with a number of different people…including people who did not go to his church and people who were not Christians. (And when I say “crossed paths with” I mean he had the opportunity to stop, talk and initiate or grow a friendship.) It was both intriguing and compelling.
Now, add to the mix that this all happened on the church’s property.
You may be asking “how” did he do that? The answer is that they as a church chose to make their doors as wide open as possible. Their space was used to house a whole host of things on a regular basis (coffee shop, events, art gallery, etc.) so that people who did go to their church as well as people who did not go to their church were consistently “on their property” and “in their building.”
Having described his morning, he concluded with these paragraphs:
Then my work day began. I had all these checkboxes on my dry-erase board illustrating the tasks I needed to accomplish this week. But before I could start knocking those out, I marveled at how my morning had started. I compared it to my younger days as a youth pastor in a mega-church. Back then, I lived and worked in a bubble of Christians. I’m not complaining about them. They were actually wonderful people and many of them are still close friends. However, the bubble-experience kept me isolated – disconnected from what our city was doing, disconnected from people who didn’t look and act like us, and disconnected from our physical neighbors who literally lived across the street.
Somehow, our church has figured out a way to exist without a bubble. … We’ve somehow shed our bubble. In my opinion, this has two profound benefits: 1) People don’t hesitate to enter our space. Through trial and error, we’ve created in-roads that foster community, conversation, and hopefully relationships. You know what’s a win for us? Seeing a stranger feel welcome. 2) I don’t live isolated from the world around me. I can’t run from it. Every day, our building is being accessed by people in our community. There is literally no way for us to develop a weird Christian sub-culture here because we don’t have a bubble to develop it within. Instead, we are encouraged to create an environment for people to feel safe and authentic. That’s much more desirable in my opinion.
I’m grateful for this place. It won’t let me hunker down into isolation. It calls me out into the open and forces me to engage the world around me. And that’s when the magic happens – not only do I get to give what I have to offer, but I also get to receive.
I love that picture. And, to be honest, it got me really excited. I am asking questions: What would this look like for Sojourn? How could you and I create a place where the gospel is center and, simultaneously, no one is a stranger?
It makes tons of sense, doesn’t it? We do not want our church to be a fortress… we want it to be a welcome center. Or, as we have said before, we do not want to be a “members only” club…we are all beggars who have found bread and this is not just any bread, it is the bread of life and there is plenty for everyone… let’s share it. Let’s invite the skeptics and the arrogant; the doubters and cocky; the rebel and the religious, the poor and the rich; the strong and the broken.
I want to invite you into this kind of intentionality. I want to invite you into an approach to life that would involve rearranging the way we live so that we are actually about Jesus’ mission. It would take time, energy, money and creativity. Will you dream with us?
More importantly, will you pray with us?