“If our church were to disappear tomorrow, who would notice?”
“If I were to disappear tomorrow, who would notice – who would come to my funeral?”
I was having breakfast with Kelly, I think, when he first brought these questions up. The questions weren’t asked out of a prideful sense of “look at how much we’re doing” or “I’ve got a lot of friends who would come”, but rather a reflection on the impact we make in the world. If we were suddenly to disappear, would it make a difference in the world around us? We talked about it for a while, and our conclusion was deeply disturbing.
Certainly for the second question, there are people around me who would notice. My family and friends would be impacted, and perhaps some of the people who meet in my house on Monday nights. There would be people at work who would notice, of course, as their workload picked up a bit. But other than that, who would really care. How many people in the community know my name. I get coffee, fast food, eat out, buy groceries, get gas – a variety of daily or weekly tasks – and I generally see the same people there every day or week. How many of their names do I know? How many of them know or remember me? Am I that bland and nondescript that the people around me don’t take notice of the life and joy I have (or am supposed to have) in Christ? Is my kindness, love and charity so common and unspectacular that nobody around me feels blessed after I’ve left?
As a church, the answer to me gets even worse. If all the members of our church were suddenly to not exist, again the people closest to them would no doubt notice and feel loss. But would our community be saddened to see us go? Are there programs we are involved in where we are making enough of an active difference that people would even notice? Is there a neighborhood where we minister, or a group of people we work with? Do we do anything at all for the benefit of people outside of our walls? Some churches, perhaps, would have the community breathe a sigh of relief if they disappeared. Why do we think our condition is much better?
Two things trouble me:
- Too many of our church structures are set up like a country club – for the benefit of people who are on the inside.
- Too often I can’t be bothered to treat others with the same level of importance as Jesus would.
My vision for our church would be that if we had to close the door, there would be a huge group of non-members and non-believers whose lives would be adversely impacted. My prayer is that we would be so vital and involved in the community that our loss would be lamented by the entire city – young, old, rich, poor. We have so far to go, but so many opportunities.
My hope for my own journey of transformation is that I would take more time – all the time – for those around me. My prayer is that I would do *something* to stand out. My prayer is that my funeral wouldn’t just be filled with people who look a lot like me. My prayer is that I will ultimately be like Jesus, and that I would draw all I encounter to Him.