Awhile back we had a guest musician who came to our church building for the first time to rehearse. When we talked over the phone, arranging a time for him to rehearse, I gave careful instructions of how to locate the church office door. On the arranged day and time, he promptly showed up at the office door where I met and greeted him. We continued talking as I walked with him from the office to the sanctuary. He got settled in at the organ as I asked if there was anything else he needed before I left him to rehearse and went back to my office. With a wide-eyed and panicked look he said, “Rehearsing will be fine. Getting out here is what I am worried about!”
It is no surprise to us that our church building can be quite intimidating, especially to first time visitors of our space. After all, there is a lot of space. It is a large building and the maze-like quality of the layout can be disorienting. So, when we got to the point of “going live” with the listing of our church buildings and property, I wasn’t surprised at all that the realtors needed a little help and time to learn layout before they could guide a showing of the property without a shepherd. It took about a half-a-dozen times of me walking through with the realtors, and interested purchasers, before the realtors could guide the tour without me.
One of our church leaders spoke apologetically to me about how the showings of the church were taking up my time – time I could be tending to the many other demands and tasks of the pastorate. While it did undoubtedly take time and require some added accommodation and flexibility in my work, there was an unexpected gift in the process. I got a peek into what God is up to in the lives of other area churches. In talking with the various church leaders about their congregations and what was leading them to consider a change in location, I was given a valuable reminder of the vast and various ways God is working not just in the world but in our city. There are young churches, churches with long histories, and every age in between. There are small churches, churches overflowing with people, and every size congregation in between. There are traditional churches, and cutting-edge churches, and everything in between. There is so much diversity in the ways the churches, the collection of people that we call the body of Christ, look and move and serve our city.
But for all that diversity, there was a common thread. As they talked about their church, every single group spoke about their sense of God working in their community in new and mysterious ways. They spoke about how they know that God is doing something new with them and is preparing them for change. Each of them spoke, in their own way, about how they are exploring opportunities and waiting to see where God leads them.
Hearing their stories was a powerful reminder of how God is at work in so many different ways in the lives of so many different churches. God is at work in their beginnings, in their endings, and in their transitions. God is at work in small churches, churches overflowing with people, and every size congregation in between. God is at work in traditional churches, and cutting-edge churches, and everything in between. God isn’t confined to one kind of church. God isn’t present at only one time in the life of a church. And, God definitely is not confined to one place a church gathers. God is on the move in each of our churches and is inspiring a whole bunch of us to be on the move too.