“What we need is a sign, people don’t even know we exist.”
That was a sentiment stressed by several of our church members at a recent visioning meeting. Our church is going through the life giving yet tedious process of developing a mission and vision statement as well as a firm short term direction for our congregation.
This feeling, expressed by several people is not done without reason. People really don’t know we exist. Our church building is tucked into the suburbs of North Kildonan. It is on a small bay drive cut off from any major or even minor thoroughfare by countless houses and a strip mall situated directly across the parking lot. Our church is hard to find.
Our lead minister recently had a meeting with some of the other churches in our area. Represented were Catholics, Lutherans, Orthodox and several other denominations. None of them had even heard of our church before - and they live and worship in the same community!
I understand some of our member’s frustrations with being so closed off. People for the most part want to be noticed. As a church we also want to be noticed. Jesus’ life in ministry was an endless parade of being noticed and he calls the church to be noticed by the world.
I just finished a book by Alan and Eleanor Kreider entitled “Worship and Mission after Christendom” put out this year by Herald Press. The co-authors agenda is very simply to create a picture of what both worship and mission might look like in a world that is post-Christian or beyond Christendom. In other words how can we worship and do mission differently now that we are in a world that is not predominantly Christian. This quote sums it up:
“Mission, in post-Christendom, is emerging as God's own mission, in which God is the main actor and in which God calls all Christians to participate. And worship, which ascribes worth to God, becomes narrative-based: it tells the story of God, celebrates God's work past and present, in order to enable Christians to live in hope as players in God's story.'
I could not help but think of our church as I read this book. We are in the process of trying to become more visible in the community and I am pondering what the best way to go about that is. The Kreider’s caught my attention when they spent some time talking about the purpose of our worship services.
Worship, they claimed is about ascribing worth to God and sanctifying humans. Too often they claim churches are focused on how to make their own church buildings and services seem more attractive. Music, drama, lights, length of sermon and amount of congregational reading are just some of the many topics thrown around when discussing how to attract the passerby. The problem is that worship should primarily be about giving praise to God and purifying the heart of the congregants, and not suckering people into a service. Then with pure hearts our church members go out into the world and through their actions in the community attract the passerby.
So the church service Sunday morning becomes a time to give attention to God and in turn build up and purify the believer in order to go out and be a part of what God is doing, God’s own story.
I am not against signs, in fact I think we need one at least for people who are searching for our church and cannot find it. However, I also think that we are each called to be living signs, sanctified in worship to be a part of God’s mission in our world.
- Terrell Wiebe