I've been reading a book recently. The title is UnChristian and its given me a lot to think about. It is a researched look at the views that 16 - 29 year olds who are not part of the church (called outsiders) have about Christianity and the church. It's pretty discouraging. We have not done very well - the research shows that most "outsiders" see the church as intolerant, closed, and out of touch with the real world. I don't know - maybe the outsiders are right. Maybe we in the church has spent so many years focusing on our own stuff, we have become out of touch and unconcerned about the world outside.
I've also been reading and rereading the accounts of the early church in Jerusalem in the days and months right after Pentecost. Those Christians were the outsiders; the aliens. They were the ones whose lives and faith didn't match the world in which they lived but began to transform it anyway.
Guess what? They turned their world upside down without the aid of big sanctuaries or big church campuses. Instead, they met in each others homes for meals, for worship, for prayer and fellowship. Yeah, they also met regularly in the temple courts. But the real action took place away from there. Doctor Luke tells us that these first Christians "enjoyed the favor of all the people.
Is the church a building? Is it pews, stained glass, or church organs? Or is it people; people who are so committed to Christ and each other, that not only do they like to gather together in one place to worship, they are committed to living out the faith each day in places of work, neighborhoods, schools, parks, stores - wherever they happen to be.
That conviction is what has propelled our church family - Calvary Presbyterian - to step outside its comfort zone and its sanctuary to be the church in the world. We call it Faith In Action Sunday. Over 150 people are participating by collecting food for the food bank, doing yard work and window washing for the local Senior and tutoring center, writing letters to soldiers in Iraq and serving lunch to folks living in a homeless camp.
Will anyone come to our church because of this? I don't know. I guess that's not the point. Will anyone become a Christian because they saw us serving? It would be cool. But that's up to the Lord. What is awesome is that so many of us in our family of faith see the church as not just a service we go to once a week but a way of life that exhibits itself out in the world.
St. Francis made a famous statement once. "Preach a sermon every day. If necessary use words." So I guess I won't worry about the fact that I don't get to preach to a group of congregants this weekend. Instead, they get to preach an even more powerful message to the world by modeling the faith through service.
So for tonight, I will sign off. It's time to go grab another cup of coffee and enjoy a Saturday night without a church service. Tomorrow we experience "the church without walls."