Making Sure We’re Not Alone

Church

{Photo by my awesomely talented friend, Brian Wolfe.}

I remember some years ago sitting in a college class — Writing Fiction and Poetry.  Our textbook for the year was a book written by Anne Lamott, which is just cool.  Pretty lighting in the room.  Crunchy, artistic, musical, earth-loving students.  I loved it.

One morning, our quiet and good professor said, “Why do we write?”  Different students had different answers.  I probably had an answer of my own, but I don’t remember it today.  I only remember the answer of Nate Henricks, my fellow student.

“To make sure we’re not alone.”

Bingo.

We write to make sure we’re not alone.  Another way to say it — we write to make sure nobody is alone.  I write so you know you’re not alone, because it is so very good to know that.  And I read so I know I’m not alone.

This month, I read a book that made me feel very not alone in regard to something I haven’t written much about.  Being Church, Doing Life by Michael Moynagh.

Rod and I planted a church two years ago in a poor and dangerous neighborhood in our town.  Our goal was to provide a free, honest, diverse place of worship for people who did not typically attend church.  I led the worship.  Rod gave the sermon.

Sometime during the first year, we decided to tack on to each service a time of “street ministry” at the end, which usually consisted of handing out popsicles or hot chocolate, depending on the season, and praying for people who were out in the neighborhood.

Over time, it became clear that our real success was in the street ministry, not the worship service, so we buttoned up shop, moved out of the building, and decided our sole focus would be on the street ministry.  That was a couple months ago, and every week after street ministry, stories pour in of people being loved, hugged, prayed for and really, really touched by God.

But I’ve been a little sad.  I know the street ministry is where we should focus.  I know our worship service was costing more investment than it was worth.  I know the transition was right.  I’ve never questioned that.  But still.  Sometimes I feel like we failed.  I have to remind myself, consciously, that our ministry is good and right, and the only reason it feels failure-y to me is because it doesn’t look how I thought it would.  My heart is worship.  My heart is God’s people together, singing and being creative as a way to draw attention to and show affection for the Real Creator.  And while I do still get to lead worship with the most wonderful team in my morning church and in my living room small group, I sometimes still miss this little neighborhood church that I loved.

There have, however, been necessary moments over the past weeks and months that have allowed me to feel a little less sad about our transition.  A little less like a failure and a little less alone.  This book I just read was one of those moments.

Moynagh’s book is full of Christians all over the world stepping outside the stained glass walls of church buildings and finding other ways to gather people together in the name of Jesus.  There are over 120 of what he calls “pioneering stories” of people creating ministries of “fresh expression.”  Crafting groups, playground Sunday School, community center Bible studies, churches in pubs.

Without speaking negatively about traditional church, as most people think about it, Moynagh makes a strong case for why followers of Jesus should be working harder than they are to bring “church” into the world, rather than invite the world to come to church.  And not only does he push for this kind of work.  He gives step-by-step instructions for how to do it and for how to make it successful and right.  All the while, sprinkling his advice with real stories of real people “creating gospel communities where life happens.”

When I read this book, in the midst of my tiny whiffs of sadness, I felt like I wasn’t alone.  I felt like we hadn’t failed at all, but that our hot chocolate and popsicles with prayer were the right thing to be doing.  And it gave me one more nudge to keep doing the right thing.

This week, Being Church, Doing Life is being toured around the blog world.  It is available on Kindle today for just $1.99, so if you’re someone who likes to read and wants to hear more about what this book has to say, go ahead and purchase it.  {Don’t have a Kindle?  You can get the app on your phone.  Do it.  You will thank me later.}

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