My home church is called Westminster. And I want to briefly share 6 things I love about it.
Yes, I’m the pastor, but I’m also in the mix as a husband and father, someone with goals, struggles and hopes like many of you.
1. Authentic People
Runny noses, the occasional bad decision, a fight or two, and a lot of worn-out knees. A dream realized, a long-awaited hug, a decision to trust Jesus, and a second chance.
Especially in an age of privatized everything.
As Robert Putnam describes in his book Bowling Alone, people seem to be retreating from group-oriented activities (whether involvement in leagues, politics, community or church) and going it alone. But I’ve come to deeply appreciate this fact:
God uses the family of faith to build up the faith of the family.
People are a prize. Authentic people. People who are a bit like you, but unlike you too.
“Authenticity” means that we’re not pretending to be perfect. Truth is, I’m not a very “good” Christian. I mess up all the time! But it’s not about perfection; and I don’t think we’re pretending it is. It’s about trusting and trying together.
More and more we’ve become a family-friendly place. That means being intentionally inclusive of children and youth alongside adults. There’s work to be done, and I think that each year will see improvements. Of that I have no doubt.
But young people are included from Sunday School to the worship service itself; from playgroups to youth groups to camps, to an atmosphere that says “This isn’t just my parents’ church; it’s mine too.”
This is all a “good idea.” But to be honest, it also makes it easier for me as a parent.
3. Truth Matters
In a time of relativity, “anything goes” and “if it feels good, do it,” I love that at our church truth matters. The message of God’s un-intimidated, getting-close, beyond-the-bounds-of-time love in the Risen Jesus is central. There is no other truth or system of belief like this one.
One of my goals every week is to communicate this truth to people in way that authentically connects to our modern lives—lives that are full of fun and fall downs, parenting ambiguities, rising hydro bills, surprising stories, unwelcome diagnoses, and rip-at-your-guts decisions.
In the midst of it all, there’s wisdom to be gleaned. We don’t compromise… at least not intentionally!
People visit and call, they send cards, flowers and prayers. This speaks to the heart of a people.
But I should also say this is getting harder. As the church becomes more diverse and as fewer people know each other based on Sunday morning encounters, we are trying to get more organized to make connections and express care. A group has just started up that wants to make and deliver meals for people who are sick or struggling. Plus, with an evolving culture and things like weekend work schedules, multiple-weekend activities, and more weekend travel (for younger and older people alike) it’s important to be intentional about connecting. It doesn’t just happen by itself.
I followed up with a family I hadn’t seen in a few weeks. And then they didn’t return for 2 weeks after that. Why? One week they were visiting family out of town, another their kids were sick, another they were working weekends, another they had a family birthday party. It’s getting complicated!
So caring and connecting matters.
5. Spiritual Growth
All the time I see people who are spiritually growing. Everyone is at a different place in their journey, but I see people who are choosing God daily, who are deepening their prayer life, who are becoming more bold in their faith, who are starting to worship, who are integrating Jesus’ teachings into their daily lives and the rough-and-tumble, who are working at loving others more intentionally.
It’s probably the most rewarding thing to be a part of.
To help with this we’ve tried to diversify how we connect and learn. We’ve had some home study groups, wildly expanded our online presence, started a new online learning platform, and generally encouraged people to be learners in the midst of whatever they’re doing. It’s great.
6. Open to Change
That’s a big one for me. And in some ways this openness to change is because things are going pretty well. When you’re headed in the right direction, change is more easily supported—if it’s the right kind of change.
It’s also because people are looking forward, not backward (not an easy thing in some churches). Remember Wayne Gretzky? I remember him saying something like “I skate to where the puck is going to be and go there, not to where it has been.”
Where is the puck going to be?
Change is hard in a church. But. “Our options are to learn this new game… or to continue practicing our present skills and become the best players in a game that is no longer being played.” (Larry Wilson)
In my mind the biggest barrier to change isn’t people stuck in their ways, it’s not having a dream worth leaping for.
A church isn’t a building. It’s also not even, well, “church.”
The word “church” is misleading. If you’re looking for a faithful translation of the word ekklesia (the Greek word usually translated as “church” in the New Testament), you’ll get closer to the original meaning if you use Gathering (or even Sent-Ones).
This linguistic ambiguity says something: We are the ones gathered on purpose and sent for a purpose.
You ain’t acting alone.
So a church is the people. But it’s more than that. The church is people who are gathered and sent by Jesus for Jesus.
As the pastor I always have in mind 100 things I’d like to “accomplish” at the church, uh, the Gathering. I’m sure that’s the same with others too. I’m always looking to where the puck is going.
But it’s so good to stop once in a while and think, wow, look at the good—Look at how God is active at our Gathering.
And that’s something I want to be a part of.
So if you are a part of a Gathering, stop for a moment to look at the good. Where is God active?
This blog is about things I love about “my” church. But of course, it’s not mine. It’s Jesus’ Gathering. And that’s the best thing of all.