20 June 2010
Here I am sitting on the grass in a little park. Things I learned today at the street church gathering (and afterwards):
1. I really have missed the church street family while I've been away the past couple weeks visiting the latest little addition to my personal family. It's amazing how our brothers and sisters in Christ so quickly become real family to us, and how much we miss them when we're away.
2. L was telling me she became a Christian at age 18, and immediately married a pastor. But then, she "wandered." And recently she's been coming back to Father and the family. She says that while she is "still a bit in the wilderness," she now really knows God, and she's delighted because He always looks after her, no matter what.
3. When Pastor P said, "If I'm not here, this isn't happening," I got upset and started arguing, because those of us who are part of this street church family are all willing to pitch in and do our part, even if he's away for some reason. I thought he was saying that maybe this was "his ministry," and he had to be there for it to happen. (I should have known better - that's not his attitude!)
But it turned out that what he really meant was the "the board" of "the church" that invited us to use the yard of their facility, as well as their washrooms and coffee maker and such, seem to have lost some of their enthusiasm for having us there. And they've told him that if he isn't there, we can't gather there. Guess maybe we're too scary or something, lol!
But at the same time, all kinds of the every-day folks who "go to church" there, but aren't "on the board," are delighted to have us borrowing their space. When they go past out, out in the yard, as they are "going into the church," they stop, smile, hug, chat, encourage! And that's what is really important, because, well ... they really are the church!
So after our gathering was over, Pastor P decided to drop into their "service" to encourage them in return! We are the body together, after all! Even if some feel more comfortable gathering in the stained-glass, stone church building, while others are more comfortable outside on the grass beside the downtown street.
4. When I walked by another church building in the downtown area, which has front doors that open right onto the sidewalk, I could hear the "good worship music" and the preaching, and even peek in and see the people. But sadly, despite all the folks walking by on the sidewalk, "the church" literally doesn't even see them most of the time, because their backs are turned toward the door, with their eyes focused on the platform at the far end of the building. Hmmm...
5. But then I walked past the "square" in the center of downtown, and a group of street folks, who are members of Jesus' family, were sitting there by the fountain. And as folks walk by, they smile, and wave, and call folks over (including me!). So friendly. (Lots of "normal" people walk way around them, not realizing what they are missing. Outward appearance issues...).
(So, I wonder, which of the "groups" above constitute "the church." All of them, I'm sure... and yet... It seems like some are caught up in the "doing" of church, and maybe are missing out on "being" the church?)
6. And then I walked past what is possibly the "biggest and most successful church in town." Large building set in a large parking lot filled to overflowing with nice shiny new-model cars. In fact, based on the cars, I wondered if there were any "poor" folks inside that building at all? (No way to tell, short of going inside... not a person in sight, and the few windows face the back of the parking lot). Would poor people even feel comfortable there?
And I wondered, what if all those nice middle-class (or higher?) Christians just used second hand, old beater cars (or even walked...), and used the money they saved to take care of the poor... And maybe even invited the homeless poor to come into their building (and provided some beds ... and meals ...) (or maybe not...)?
7. And as I walked along, I bumped into a couple folks who used to come to the street church gatherings, but haven't come for awhile. Why? One of them, I know, tried to help by putting away the lawn chairs when he saw the food being cleared up after breakfast. He was just trying to be helpful, but I think he was hurt when we weren't grateful for his effort (we were planning to sit around and "share Jesus" after the meal. I suspect Jesus would have thanked him, and then held the gathering sitting right on the grass... or thanked him, and then walked along the street with him, conversing with him and encouraging him...
8. (Back to #3) I'm still not comfortable "borrowing" a space where we have to follow "their" rules and regulations and times (even though they invited us, and initially were really enthusastic)... and where it seems they only trust Pastor P... (despite his tattoos and very unpastorly appearance and un-churchy methods - or lack of methods, actually!).
But maybe You have Your reasons for us being there at this time. Like to encourage the "lay" folk who are unreservedly happy to have us there on their front lawn!
So I guess I better stop whining, and instead open my eyes and heart wide to see what it is You're up to! (Sorry for my narrow, self-centered outlook).
9. Pastor P has, up to now, had a "board" (for the "Another Chance Street Ministry") made up entirely of "pastors." But now he's planning to invite people who are "just believers." Those who You have also called to reach out to the poor and lost, and who want to just be the church (instead of trying to develop programs, and buy housing, and do fund-raising...).
The one pastor who actually has been able to really see past "programmed outreach" told him, "I wondered when you were going to get over having a "pastor board." Hmmmm.... :-)
10. Oh! And we had a big turnout this morning. But afterwards, we were talking about how numbers really aren't a big thing. And how smaller numbers can result in more "family" time. And how maybe it's time to split into smaller groups and gather in different locations in the city. Because people in other parts of town who can't afford cars or even transit are missing out.... (But what do YOU want, Father?).
And as Pastor P pointed out, his "helpers" have been "learning" from him... but if they don't get out and "be the church" in action, he might as well just "start a church" with a building and all. And he sure doesn't want to go there! He'd be happy to check in on the new gatherings. And arrange times for "the church in our city" to all gather (yes, the local street gatherings, but the other kinds of gatherings too)... family reunions so to speak...