What Kind of Church Are You?
On Saturday I participated in what has become an annual Mother’s Day weekend tradition. I call it, How Can I Take A Relatively Simple Task That Honors My Wife Such As Putting Out Mulch And Turn It Into An All Day Event? The way HCITARSTTHMWSAPOMATIIAAD? works is that I arrange to borrow a trailer, I realize that my hitch is broken, I go get a part to replace the hitch, I drive over to pick up the trailer, I realize I don’t have the wiring harness to connect the lights on the trailer, I drive really really slowly to the mulch place so I don’t get pulled over, I get to the mulch place and realize I don’t know the difference between Triple Ground and Dyed Brown but apparently the fate of the free world rests upon it, I finally get the mulch home and decide that I’m not going to force my kids to grab a shovel and help, I sweat approximately 3/4 of my body weight and then decide that she’s THEIR mom, after all, so doggone it they darn well WILL get out here and help, I contemplate trading one of my kids for the random neighbor kid who showed up and decided to help, I trip with the wheelbarrow and dump an entire load of mulch right in the front yard in a non-mulch spot, I continue to sweat and smell something like a gym sock, I finish the job, I bring my wife out to show her, and I get this very subtle, slightly uneasy feeling that I should have gone with the Triple Ground after all.
In the middle of this blessed event, I had two separate conversations with two neighbors. Apparently nothing says “Community Togetherness” like a guy mopping his head with a cloth diaper and developing those little smell lines that indicate that a cartoon character reeks of funk.
These are two neighbors that I’ve talked to at various times over the years, and because they unfortunately know I’m a pastor, their conversations generally drift towards pastor-type things. (I say “unfortunately” because once people know you’re a pastor, they start excusing their French and telling you about the time they went to Vacation Bible School when they were four.)
Sure enough, both conversations drifted to the Summit, at their leading. They started off, “How’s the church going?” (Fine.) “You still driving all the way to Brier Creek?” (Yep.) “Y’all still building a building?” (Grab a shovel and I’ll tell you about that.) And then, the same question from both…
“So what kind of church are you?”
This is where it got fun. One neighbor didn’t want us to be too conservative, because it would fly in the face of her world view. The other neighbor didn’t want us to be too liberal. He actually said (and I loved this quote), “Your preacher doesn’t preach any of those feel-good sermons, does he?”
Two neighbors. Two viewpoints. Same core question.
At the end of the day as I was sitting on the couch, wondering if my muscles would allow me to ever move again, I thought about the question. “What kind of church are we?”
A lot of descriptors come to mind: doctrinally solid. Culturally relevant. Missionally focused. Gospel centered. Christ worshipping. Guest friendly. Methodologically creative. Purposefully simple.
And while I had tossed a couple of those descriptors out in the earlier conversation, the thought occurred to me that those are just churchy terms that really don’t mean much. To an outside world, what does it mean to be doctrinally solid? Does that even register on the grid of what they’re looking for in a church? Does saying that we’re “guest friendly” evoke images of us slapping a name tag on you and making you introduce yourself to the congregation on your first visit?
The truth is, it’s hard to describe the Summit to someone who’s never been to the Summit. I often find myself taking the easy route and saying, “It’s a fun church…trust me, you’ll love it,” but does that really convey the life change that happens here? On the other hand, if I were to say, “It’s a church where you can find healing for your hurts and answers to your questions” am I simply assuming that they have questions, or even hurts?
How about it, Summit? How do you answer that kind of question when you’re asked? I’d love to get some feedback from you.
What kind of church are we?