When a church goes through our Pathway or Inventory program for revitalization, it often includes a site visit from one of our team members.
They will record their observations of how welcoming and inclusive the service and facility felt from the perspective of an outsider.
Recently I had an experience at one such visit that provided a powerful metaphor…accidently.
I walked alone into a very traditional church service, complete with a small choir and organist, and handed what I assumed was a program for the church. The rather large sanctuary with its high arched ceiling seemed a bit overwhelming for the thirty or so mostly elderly people scattered in it. After I sat down in a pew by myself, I looked at the program and discovered it was from the national office of the denomination regarding a relief assistance program.
The service began with a short welcome followed by a choir song and call-and-response readings and a prayer. I was lost and didn’t know the liturgy. Then a hymn was introduced and people stood up. I located a hymnal in the pew but the page number of the song was not mentioned…and honestly I wouldn’t have known the hymn anyway. I was feeling uncomfortable and self-conscious that I couldn’t take part in what was going on, and only silently mouthed the words being sung. I wondered what else I would miss or have to fake? Plus, everyone else seemed to know when to stand or sit.
Then I noticed that the people in the church were holding a large folded sheet with all the information on it as well as the hymns. I must have somehow missed it walking in.
During the next choir song, I noticed the pastor suddenly stepped down from his pulpit, walked across the front of the sanctuary, and left the room in a side door. I wondered if that was normal.
Midway through another song, the pastor suddenly appeared next to me, smiled, and handed me the sheet with all the information on it. He walked away and returned to the pulpit as the service continued.
Dang. And it made me wonder.
The metaphor was immediate: God stepped down from the highest heights of another dimension, slipped through a side door, came near me, smiled, and welcomed me into what He was doing.
He stepped down. He noticed me. He included me.
He took note of my confusion, my discomfort. And came near.
God came for us and to us. He gave us Himself—the Word—so that we might be included in His work on this blue planet. Or as John put it:
The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish. JOHN 1:14 (THE MESSAGE)
And then of course my thoughts returned to the present. How many churches take the time to really relate to where the average person is and their unfamiliarity or uneasiness with our customs and language? Why do we not notice, or worse, care about the barriers we have put up for our own comfortableness? Why have we settled with our own status quo that causes us to ignore those on the outside?
Do we step down to meet them?
How would you rate that in your church? It begins with leadership.
Dave Workman | The Elemental Group
What if you could identify and remove growth barriers? Empower your volunteers? Build passionate people? Make a real difference in your community? And what if you had church-tested tools for team-building and leadership development? The Elemental Pathway is a comprehensive holistic 6-month program combining online assessments, coaching, and action-learning, gamified tools for highly engaging, team-based interaction.