Over a year ago I went on an excursion. I didn't leave my house but visited a bunch of church websites. What was the first thing churches wanted to show me? Interesting...
Many churches showed me their buildings. Some showed me their pastors doing a kids' message on the step of the altar platform. Some showed me groups of happy workers apparently doing landscaping or yard work around the church building. For some, it was their choir all bedecked in primary colors and smiling brightly. Still others obviously were proud of their massive pipe organs. Some showed me groups of standing worshipers in ecstatic response, arms a'waving. Others, of course, big praise bands.
Often, there was a focus-group designed paragraph about "who we are." Carefully chosen words such as "caring, serving, welcoming, loving, diverse, inclusive" followed as their self-chosen affirmations. All positive, of course. Though, curiously, I never found the word "humble" in any of them. Many had mission or vision statements about "bringing Christ to the nations"--as the old Lutheran Hour radio motto said.
It's no wonder church websites look much like those of other community organizations. We are, after all, just that. However, as a friend said long ago, churches are "just the same--only different." I hope. But back to the web search...
One website stood out from all the rest. Its welcome mat, the first thing a web visitor might see, was not a statement about the church itself. In fact, it wasn't a statement at all. It was a question:
Why bother? Why spend time doing this at all?
What followed was breathtaking. It led me on a journey that was far more like a poem than a densely packed self-proclamation or committee-crafted mission/vision statement.
There was space between the lines for me to breathe and ponder.
It talked about life. It wasn't an ideal, idyllic portrayal of a church that had it all together in a world coming apart. It also wasn't a judgmental condemnation of that world.
It was the most honest thing I found in the entire excursion. It rang true. It sounded like the world I live in. It sounded like the world that Jesus lived in.
Better, it sounded like the world that Jesus lives in. It sounded real.
I was immediately engaged. I wanted to know more about this church. Not because it had better answers.
It had better questions. More accurately, because it had questions at all. With Jesus there in the middle of them.
I've never known answers to come in the absence of questions.
"Why?" seems like a very good place to begin.
Jesus is there in the middle of that. Thanks be to God!