You Do You
Whether big or small, churches tend to believe they can be all things to all people.
As a pastor, this baffles me.
First—and I say this as someone who routinely meets her own limits—churches don’t have infinite resources. Nothing human does. We like the word “yes” (it feels SO faithful to say) but struggle to define or live with the no’s that come with the yes.
Second—Jesus wasn’t all things to all people. This can be shocking to hear, if you haven’t read the gospels. Clearly, Jesus had enemies. Not enemies he set out to make per se, but enemies who appointed themselves in response to who he cared about and for. Jesus declared that the kingdom of God was first for the cast-offs of the religious purity system and the throwaways of the empire. Not everyone warmed to that message then—and not everyone warms to it now.
Third—when churches try to do or be too much, they miss an opportunity to live out their specific vocation. It’s that Frederick Buechner quote: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
After becoming an Open and Affirming congregation a few years ago (explanation here), my church hung a rainbow flag outside its building, clearly visible to every passing car and truck. As a mostly—but not exclusively—straight, cisgender community we had to educate ourselves about the lives, concerns and hopes of the people with whom we wanted to ally and support. It has evolved into an ongoing conversation. But as I prepare to leave this community to serve another, that flag represents one of the things about which I'm most proud. Other churches in our small town cannot—or would not want to—fly a rainbow flag. But my congregation can, and does, and will, in part because it discovered who and what it is for.
We don’t need to be everything. We simply can’t be.
But we can ask ourselves: What are we for? Who are we for?
Answer those questions, and you have a vocation worthy of a church.