05/31/19

Just the other day, I was driving the back roads of South Carolina.  In a small town, miles from nowhere, I came across a small country church with a Bar-B-Q pavilion out back.  Now this is not an unusual sight, however, this one was different in two ways.  First, it was in pristine condition... clean and well maintained and freshly painted.  This is not always the case with these pavilions as they often look dilapidated and ignored and ready to fall down.  The second thing I noticed is that they only had two picnic tables in the pavilion.  Now, this was a church that probably easily seated one to two hundred and they only had picnic table seating for ten... at the most.  I would be willing to guess that for a number of years this church had a yearly bar-B-Q event that was the talk of the town... an event to plan around... a ministry that reached out into the community and invited all to the table.  I would also guess that in recent years... in the past decade or two those Bar B-Q events have diminished in size... no longer reserved on folks calendars... no longer a ministry that reaches out into the community and invites all to the table.  My guess, if they have them at all, they are pale reflections of what were and they involve an ever aging population with fewer and fewer in attendance each year.  And chances are... at this church I passed... the bar B-Q events were now a thing of the past and the only folks using the pavilion are the Sunday school kids who meet there on Sunday night but they keep the pavilion ready out of respect for those memories of yesteryear.

 

And I am sure some of you are saying... ”What a shame” and “What is wrong with people today” and “Why don’t folks love their churches like they did back then?”  And those are all viable questions to ask, however, I would also challenge you to ask yourself just one more question... and think about it seriously.  Why has the church refused to change and go out to where the people are... Why do we continue to think we can build it and they will come?

 

Because the fact of the matter is... we can build it... we can make a nice clean pavilion... we can cook the best bar B-Q in town... we can have the fanciest multi-use gym around... but people will still not come most times.  In general, we churches are still not connecting with the world surroundings us.  In general, we are sitting in our buildings... in our pavilions and waiting for them to all come back around and wondering why there are fewer and fewer of us each passing year.

 

Brothers and Sisters, I have become increasingly convinced by the Spirit that the answer to the churches problem is not going to be another bar B-Q event... a Wednesday night supper... a bible study... an ice cream social... a yard sale... a community work day.  Don’t get me wrong... those are all good things and we need to do them but they are not going to increase the community of faith.  I know this because if you look at those things objectively you will notice two things... 1. They are attended mostly by those already in the church and 2. Those attending who are not in the church are either there for the entertainment or for just something to do (until something better comes along).

 

In the Spirit, I am being convinced that the answer lies somewhere in recreating what we think of as the church.  For too long, the church has been a building... a location... a gathering place, instead, I think we need to start thinking of the church as people.  There is truth in the saying that where two or three are gathered in His name Jesus is there.  What if we begin to think of the church as a conglomeration of small intentional groups?  Groups that gather regularly and for different purposes but always for the expressed purpose of growing in faith together... these groups could meet in coffee houses, bars, homes, at the park, down by the river, around a campfire, at a restaurant, in the library... or even at a local Bar B-Q event.  They could be lay led or clergy led... they could come together for a big purpose or for no other reason than to hang-out.  Maybe... every once in a while these groups would gather all together in a big room and have an organized time of worship and then they would go their separate ways and engage in their small group activities like normal.  In this scheme, the church would not be a mass of people gathering at the same location once a week but a mass of small individualize groups reaching out intentionally into their areas of influence one person at a time for the continuation of the Gospel and they would be meeting every day of the week... every hour of the day! 

Would this still be the church?  Would this be what God wants?  Would this be an effective model that would reach out into a disjointed and struggling world?

 

When I read the Book of Acts, Galatians, First and Second Corinthians and pretty much the entire New Testament... the society of the early church sounds very much like what we have in existence today... and God’s answer was... small intentional groups of people coming together to worship and learn about God in the light of Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

So my answer is... Yes... Yes, I think this would work.  The question is... Why are we not yet willing to change and try something new... or old in this case?  Why do we keep our Bar B-Q pavilion as memorials to what was and is no longer?

 

Grace,

Pastor Steve