Sunday, October 20, 2013

This Is The Church

Today I walked into church and took my seat.
Third row back.
Middle section.
Aisle seat to the left.

It's my spot.

A creature of habit, I sit there unless someone else is sitting there and if someone else is sitting there, I sit as close to there as possible. However, before you decide I am some hyper spiritual, goody two shoes, super Christian, you should know something.

I don't sit in the front row because I'd get whip lash looking up at the pastor. I don't sit in the second row because there are these two big speakers that my knees would knock up against. So the third row is perfect.

The reality is that when I sit in church, I sit as close to the front as possible and take notes because...I'm easily distracted. I don't mean to be and as much as I'd like to blame ADD or ADHD, the reality is that if I'm not careful I will find myself noticing the guy on his phone and the cute baby in front of me and the woman's necklace...and then I'm wondering what we are going to have for dinner...

And it is a shame because Ed and Jason are two of the best pastors I've ever heard. And that is no exaggeration. So I have adopted survival techniques. Close to the front. I'm not allowed to use the Bible on my Kindle. Take notes. Oh...and for my children's sake, try not to verbally express my agreement with a "hmmm" when the sermon is especially good. Apparently I sound like I'm eating ice cream and it's louder than I realize. And embarrassing.

Anyway, I took my seat and gave a mental "Okay, I'm here" to God. I felt pretty impressed with myself. Thanks to Twitter the night before and the Christians fighting over MacArthur's "Strange Fire" conference and the "Act Like Men" conference and all the other things Christians tend to publicly sling mud over, I was feeling pretty disgusted with the church as a whole and may or may not have attempted to use that as an excuse to sleep in rather than get up and go to church.

The worship music was really good and I sang along so glad I had gotten my carcass out of bed and here. We sat down for announcements...and they arrived. I assume they sat where they did because it was the emptiest aisle. Maybe they get distracted too. Maybe a quick scan of the sanctuary revealed those were the only three seats together and easily accessible...I don't know. But they sat in front of me. Two girls and a guy. Younger. And they talked during the video. And they didn't stand and sing during the last worship song before communion. And they were whispering during prayer.

And my theatre snob persona took over...for just a minute. "Oh Lord, I hope they don't talk all through service" I inwardly moaned. It wasn't a prayer as much as a thought out eye roll. I actually thought through a quick list of indirect ways I could let them know they were disturbing me.

And God gave me sort of a "you better check yourself" nudge. was more like a shove.

The guy was holding one of the Bibles that we give out at the welcome center. It was brand new, never opened. When communion was served, the guy asked questions and the lady serving patiently answered. I watched as the whispers and the giggles that were obvious signs of discomfort gave way to settling in seats, taking notes, nodding heads, and (I am more than happy to say) a couple of verbal "hmmm"s. The sermon was the latest in CCC's "Really?" series and explored the idea that we could believe in science and the gospel. It was intelligent, well thought out and well presented and all three of them were totally into it. So was I once I'd started taking my own notes. At one point, one of the girls dropped the lid to her water bottle and it rolled behind her seat next to my foot. It took me three times to pick it up because I'm a klutz. I whispered as I handed it back to her something about "trying to be helpful" and she gave me a smile and whispered apology to which I replied "No problem"

After service, I introduced myself. Turns out the one girl had just moved to the area and hadn't been to church since she was ten. She was thinking of maybe going when her neighbor who attends our NA meetings on Tuesday showed her our church bulletin. To give you a clue, the cover to our bulletin looks something like this:

She took one look at the bulletin and thought that this might be a church she could fit into. So she convinced her two friends who had never been to church to come along. And they had sat in front of me. And everyone had been so nice and welcoming...(insert quick, appreciative prayer for attitude readjustments here!)...they were definitely coming back!

I took a look around the lobby of our church. At all the different types of people. Our Sunday crowd definitely gives an apt depiction of our desire to be the "church". They call it "church for the rest of us" because CCC wants to give people who wouldn't normally feel comfortable in church a place to where they feel welcomed. But I think that our lobby full of bikers, parents holding toddlers, those struggling with addictions, those who've never even smoked a cigarette, teenagers with mohawks, older folks with white hair...this is what the church is supposed to look like. And we as individuals make choices to make sure the church is what it is supposed to be. We can get frustrated with the stance of the "church" or the public image of the "church" but we are the ones who have to act to change it. And it happens in little ways. And we as Christians have a responsibility to make those choices. I'm so thankful for those three. They are grateful because I'm "so nice" and I'm grateful because they reminded me what the church is...

One beggar telling another beggar where to find food. (D.T. Niles)

PS To hear/watch the sermon series "Really?" Check out CCC's website

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