I've been in a number of conversations lately about the world of church.
You know... "CHURCH". With all of the associated emotions, memories, stereotypes.
One of my friends lovingly told me he'd fire me and everyone like me. ("no offense" ~ "none taken ... maybe a teensy bit taken")
At a stranger's wedding recently, I chatted with the photographer who figured my job is a tough one, trying to be relevant and all. We did share a laugh over Fawlty Towers though.
Another guy, same wedding, assured me (though I didn't ask) that he does go to church sometimes. He sincerely wished me luck on the next day's service. Which was kind of funny. And rather sweet.
A few weeks ago, on a Tuesday, a reporter showed up at the door. We were in a heat wave, and our church building is an official "cool space" for our city. He was just doing a story on those cool spaces and wanted to know if he could see ours. We chatted, he asked questions, I answered.
His last question, unexpectedly - "Why would your church do this?"
My instant response - "Why wouldn't we? It's kind of a no-brainer."
(Warning: Mass Generalization Alert)
I think churches, maybe, have missed the mark in this area. We exist to celebrate our faith together, of course. Our beliefs are precious to us; we would not let them go easily. And of course, we think our beliefs are right. You can't hold a belief if you don't think it's right. That's the very nature of a belief, isn't it?
Where I think we have maybe missed the mark, perhaps where we have drifted off course, is in the area of simply bringing good to a community. Not just what we define as "good," according to our own faith; not just "good" that demands reciprocity; but good that is identifiable as good by those who don't believe what we do. Adding value to a city by participating in the life of it. Joining alongside others who might not share our faith, but who care about transparency in government, affordable housing, and yes - a cool space in a heat wave.
We do have our own actual purpose for existing - the church, that is. I do get mildly frustrated when people occasionally see us only as a pool of volunteers or donors, to be accessed for their varied causes. But that being said, I am glad to pastor a church that thinks faith should be lived well, whether in a Sunday morning service or a Tuesday afternoon cool space.
After all, if faith doesn't matter in a heat wave on Tuesdays, then it really doesn't matter at all, does it?