I've had a lot of God touches over the last nearly 40 years. There have been several times when God spoke straight to me, or showed up in some unmistakable way, mostly uninvited and totally unexpected. I love those moments, and will be glad to swap stories, but I have a confession. Out of all of those, only one has actually happened inside a church. I know, that's where they're supposed to happen, but for me, they usually don't. And that's ok with me.
I have led worship in some gorgeous sanctuaries. The one I lead worship in now is absolutely beautiful. It's almost gothic looking; tall ceilings, heavy wooden beams holding everything up, stained glass everywhere, and a pipe organ that just makes your innards rattle. It's a little big right now because we don't quite fill it up anymore but we're working on it.
But for all of the beauty in some of the places I've led worship, I have to say that, for me, it's not in those places where God and I connect the deepest. They're gorgeous, and I certainly don't want to take anything away from them, but I have noticed that when God tags me, and this is just Jamie, it's usually somewhere else.
This morning, Paul did it again...if Paul wrote this letter to Philemon. Here's what he said: "To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker, to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church that meets in your home...Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ..."
Now, before I get in trouble, let me say this. Our worship spaces are holy ground, beautiful and consecrated, and we really should kick our shoes off when we go in just as Moses did when he stood by the bush that was on fire but didn't burn. But it does make me want to ask some questions.
Philemon and the others met in his home probably because they were afraid to meet anywhere else. Claiming to be a Jesus follower then could cost you your head, so they needed a place where they could lock the doors and be safe while they worshipped and studied. We, on the other hand, do not. We are perfectly free to worship wherever, whenever, and however we want, so here's the big question...
What if, and I'm just thinking out loud, what if we took what we do when we come together outside to a place where folks could see us, hear us, and maybe even join us? Some of the greatest battles I have had to fight in my ministry were over a church building, not over programming or outreach, but the building itself. This person doesn't like where the table sits so they move it, but that person put it there to start with and they move it back. These two pews are in the way of handicap accessibility but we can't take them out because then it wouldn't look right. The carpet has to be red, the flowers have to be in just the right place, and nothing can be hung on the walls.
I think that's why FaithRiver has taken the form it has...no walls. If there's no building, there can't be any arguments over the building. Even when we begin offering worship celebrations, there won't be a building. Maybe we'll meet in somebody's home, or in a park. Maybe in a school, or down by the riverside (pardon the cliche'). In fact our first Jesus-life celebration will probably be at Columbus Park overlooking the river. But the point is, if we want to get back to our roots, then maybe a little less emphasis on building maintenance, and a little more on going out 2 by 2 is in order (insert shameless plug for tomorrow's message here). Just a thought.
Now, please don't think that I'm disrespecting our worship spaces, I'm not. More folks than not feel God's presence in the colored light of the stained glass and I respect that. For most folks they are havens of peace, and the walls themselves whisper Godstuff to them. I recognize that I'm different and in the minority, and honesty, sometimes wish I weren't. But I'm just wired differnt, and for me, as one knucklehead in the crowd, if we're going to be effective disciple makers, it's time to take at least part of what we do away from our buildings and into the streets or parks or parking lots.
Just thinking out loud today.