Being the Church (Part 3)

I’ll never forget the conversation I had with a young man while at the church I pastored for a decade. He was pretty new to the whole idea of church, the Gospel, and, well, just about everything we did as a community of faith.

The memorable conversation began with his phone call–a quick and simple request that made me smile. “Pastor Mike, my grandmother is near death. Would you be able to stop by the nursing home and save her?” As you might guess, it was the last line that brought the smile. I knew what he meant and I was familiar with such requests coming from my congregation, so I agreed and prepared to jot down the address.

But before he gave me the details, he paused to reflect on a scene unfolding in his head. “You know, she probably won’t want to talk with you. She doesn’t like preachers.” I smiled and assured him that I had met such folks before and usually found a way to avoid offending them while attempting the assignment given by a loving family member.

“Actually, she probably won’t even let you in the door.” Now that one seemed to raised the wall I was about to scale a bit higher. “I’ll bet she won’t talk to you at all.”

There it was. The request had turned the full one-eighty and now turned into a saddened, “Sorry, I shouldn’t have bothered you with this.”

“Wait!” I almost shouted, hoping to avoid the inevitable click on the other end. Calling him by name, I asked, “Do you think she would talk to you?”

“Oh, Pastor, I’m her favorite grandson! She’s always glad to see me.”

“Then,” I began carefully, “why don’t you tell her about Jesus.”

His next statement rocked me a little bit. “I can do that?” Somehow my friend had sat through a few dozen Sundays in our church and still believed that only his man of the cloth was qualified to lead life’s most essential transaction.

Over the next few minutes, I helped shape their upcoming conversation. I showed him how just explaining to grandma what he had experienced was the best possible approach. After all, she had apparently commented multiple times about the change she saw in her grandson. “Just tell her what Jesus has done for you,” I remember instructing.

With a restored enthusiasm, He said goodbye and was off on his first evangelistic tour. The following Sunday my friend was beaming with the news of grandma’s salvation–and a new habit of sharing his faith was clearly underway. Over the next few months, he would go on to reach several coworkers and family members. In fact, he was soon one of the most prolific at such efforts in our entire congregation.

But I was left with the question of how he came to think that such life-change could only be found at church or in conversations with me. Sure, he was pretty new to such things and there’s plenty of room for some misunderstanding in the earliest days of one’s journey with Christ, but I knew I needed to look deeper.

Is the way we do things painting this kind of picture for our congregations? Do people think the goal is to get people to church, where the “professionals” can deliver the goods? Do people live their Mondays with a sense that they carry the Spirit’s power with them, where they are? What would happen if that awareness came alive in our people as powerfully as it did for my friend?

When our good efforts of ministry become too Sunday-focused, we create an environment where people start treating God’s house as His principle residence. When we maximize Sundays at the expense of living powerfully all week long, we reinforce ideas such as my friend’s that only certain people in certain places can be a part of kingdom work.

Being the church means impacting people’s lives no matter where we are or what day it might be. It’s the “out there” that matters most. That day, I started rethinking everything we did through the lens of its impact on those Mondays, their following Saturdays, and every day in between. Let me encourage you to do that too.

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