You always hear that people won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. This is an accurate and appropriate saying, however, it’s incomplete. Let me explain:
When you get put into a new situation, and in the UMC this will happen a lot, it’s true that you need to build up a reputation with the people; you need to get some street cred. But, for the most part the congregation you get sent to is prepared to trust you, they are used to the switch from pastor to pastor, and building relationships at least has a head-start with the congregation. The missing part of the knowing and caring equation above is the meeting or finding.
I have become convinced in this past year that we need to get out of the church and find the people in the community, and then show THEM how much we care. I’m not sure I can really call this a true #ahamoment, but it was the first time that the theory of the conviction came with a real place, real faces, and real struggles. I am convinced that if Jesus were alive and walking around today in the Monfort Heights area of Cincinnati, and that if He was coming from a context of the UMC, that He would indeed show up at our church every once in a while. The majority of the time however, I bet you’d find Him walking around downtown in the middle of the night talking to the people we all like to ignore, He’d be in the rougher parts of town (you know where I’m talking about) just talking, pulling people out of their situations and placing them into His situation, calling them into a life of love of Him.
My #ahamoment is the realization that Jesus wouldn’t simply sit in the church with the doors open and expect people to accidentally walk through the doors. Jesus would be out in the community strategically placing himself where the people were: in bars, bowling alleys, at baseball and football games, in the malls, at the outlet stores, at abortion clinics, and at Kroger. Any place that people congregate, you can bet that you would find Jesus. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do…act in a way that we reflect Jesus? I think so.
My #ahamoment is the realization that if we really want to be like Jesus, then we need to get out into the community and invite people into the church instead of standing at the door of the church yelling at them to come in. There is a picture of a church sign in my office that says “You’ll Love Us Here.” This is true, people will love us and what we offer in the church, but that’s not the message I want to send to the community. The message I’d rather have appear on the sign is “We’ll Love You There.” This is the message all Christians should be sending, because it’s the message that Jesus sends when He spends the night with Tax Collectors, when He eats with prostitutes, when He touches the sick and ritually unclean.
This is hard. I’ll admit that I’m on the first few steps of this journey, but I’m committed to it, because I think it’s truly the call of Christ for the Church. #ahamoment
This blog is done in coordination with Refresh, a young clergy network in the West Ohio Annual Conference of the UMC. This is the second blog out of twelve in a twelve month prompt.