I started a blog about 7 years ago. It seemed like the thing to do, but it ended up being a mish mosh of thoughts and ideas. Some of it was meaningful- I posted the eulogy I offered at my mother in-law’s funeral. Some of it was not- What song would you like playing when you came up to bat at a minor league baseball game?
At any rate, something happened here in Atlanta earlier this year that has still been on my mind and prodded me to add my voice to an already noisy internet.
It snowed. It snowed a lot. Okay, a little. But, it froze. You may have heard about it. Make fun all you want, but the city was shut down. People were stranded. People were cold. Our church stayed open and provided coffee, food, showers, and shelter to about 70 people over the course of the night. Neighbors from across the street brought food and blankets.
We had a huge variety of people stay with us. A business woman from Ohio trying to get back to her hotel; a family who lived about a mile away, but had already been in the car 12 hours; a grandmother with her 4 year-old granddaughter who had soiled herself after eight hours in the car. Young, old, rich, poor, black, white, non-English speaking, suits, jeans, variety.
Then, a group of young people in their 20’s stayed with us for a little while, and one of them said something that I have not been able to get out of my head. “Wow. This is cool. I never thought a church would do anything like this.”
Seriously? That’s how far we’ve fallen. “I never thought a church would do anything like this.” We in the church have bickered ourselves into irrelevance, so far in fact, that people have higher expectations of the guy at Jiffy Lube than they do of us.
Here’s the thing. I don’t know anyone who has picketed the funeral of a soldier. I make a good living, but I don’t have a driver, nor do I know anyone who does. I know a lot of people in the larger church world I disagree with, but I know few personally who are on a mission to keep “other” people out of the church.
So I thought I would come back and maybe shed some light on a side of the church world that some readers may not be aware of.
My goal? Simple. That people might not think we who are part of a church are such bad people. It may not sound that ambitious, but considering the reputation the Christian church in this country has acquired, it seems like a lofty goal to me.
I invite you to read, to comment, to be respectful, as I will do my best to be.
7 thoughts on “Coming Back”
wasn’t the first blog Sparky’s Garage? I can’t remember what I had for lunch, but I remember that. Welcome back.
It was. That’s a subject of a future post.
Patrick, you are a gift to all of us. I hope we can in at least some small way return to you what you give to us.
What a amazing. Pastor and writer you have become . We are all so p
roud to call you family
Good, good stuff Patrick! I agree whole heartedly. Seems our world only know what the church is against rather than the One we are for. Look forward to reading more from you.
You have put into words what a lot of us think and don’t feel like we have a vehicle to express those thoughts. Sometimes it gets really depressing to read in the media about only bad things about a church. People who are part of a church are not such bad people – we are just people that live in a broken world and are trying, and not always succeeding, to make our little corner of it a little bit better place.
Patrick: I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s not clear to me if the fault lies completely with the church, or if the mainstream media, that seems to applaud secularism and cast a disapproving eye on Christianity, is partly culpable.
Regardless of who’s to blame, it’s a profound shame that people don’t know our basic message: we don’t go to church and worship God because we’re better people, but because we want to better people. Christians, at least the kind I choose to be with, declare that we are broken people. We’re sinners, and no better than anyone else in that regard. We worship as a community who believe that we’ve been extended forgiving grace through Jesus Christ in spite of–indeed because of–our sins. If we didn’t sin, we wouldn’t be separate from God. If we weren’t separated from God, He wouldn’t have needed to send Jesus to save us.
While our sins separate us from God, they don’t make us less Christian or un-Christian, because we’re all sinners.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, because I’m raising a teenage boy going through confirmation class. He may find himself attracted to and experimenting with certain things that occasionally confront teenage boys: girls, alcohol, even drugs. While I’m concerned (terrified) how that might turn out, I’ve taken pains to point out to him that even if he engages in some of these behaviors–behaviors I don’t approve of as a parent–that doesn’t mean he can’t be a Christian. That is to say, I don’t want him to think “well, church and Christianity isn’t for me, because I want to chase girls with my friends. I guess I’m not a Christian if I’m interested in those things.” I want him to know that while he may sin, we all sin. It’s not sin that prevents us from being Christian.
As a church and a faith, we need to do a better job of letting the larger, secular world know that everyone’s invited. There’s no superiority complex in the church; in fact, just the opposite. We’re inferior, in the sense that we’re less than God wants us to be. As Christians, we acknowledge all our faults, flaws, and sins, and worship God out of gratitude, because He loves us despite all that.
Hopefully, that makes some sense….