Word of the Week

The Product that Nobody Wants

It's no surprise to those of you who know me or follow my blog regularly that my life is fueled by relationships. I love having meaningful conversation, the opportunity for long-lasting friendships and who got into the ministry with a dream of helping healthy spiritual communities grow.

But,  in an area like the DC metro region, it seems that while such is a meaningful goal, it often doesn't go as planned, especially in the church realm of things.

I was having a conversation last week with our pastoral intern, John and he told me with some frustration on his face, "Sometimes I feel like I'm trying to push a product that no one wants." (He was referring to the Church).

In his six months with us, he's gotten a taste of how time-consuming, life-changing and exhausting the work of community making is when you are "in charge." He's learning that often as much people say that they want something, they don't have the time and energy to actually follow through unless personal priorities are there already. He's learning that as much as people tell you, "Pastor, I'm going to be there on Sunday" often times other things get in the way. He's learning most of all, that in the end, spiritual community is no longer something that people seek out of obligation (DC is not the South).

No, regular engagement with a church only comes from a desire within-- God drawing the person into the church and a readiness in the individual to respond to this calling. It's not something even the best of pastors can make happen. It's God's story every local church is writing after all.

I understand John's frustrations because I came to Washington Plaza with a dream, a really big dream, about what the God could do in this place for the good of the neighborhood, for the good friendships built-in diversity, and with the instruction of sound theological teaching. Yet, no matter how big your dreams are, there are days, weeks, even months, when the hard work of building community must go on even when the results aren't what you'd hoped them to be.

Sometimes community doesn't seem to work. The cause seems lost and even some pastors wonder if they are better off pastoring 100% outside of the walls of the church instead of inside. Sometimes even your most faithful and committed members need a break that involves "a church by the bedside." And, you feel discouraged.

But, still I believe deep down somewhere and I'm encouraging John to keep believing too.

I believe because the church seems to be the only way I know to live out the Christian path I've found my life on.

I believe because often when I need it the most a card, an email or a guest shows up on Sunday, with eagerness to be invested in the ministry that God has given us in Reston to carry out together.

I believe because no matter how much I fight it sometimes, I need a faith community and you need one too.

There are countless sparks I see all the time within this local church of people caring for each other in meaningful ways, seniors and young adults feeling emotionally and spiritually nourished because of opportunities to be together, and resurrection being practiced in simple and profound acts weekly.

Just as I was about to post this blog, my phone rang. A woman on the other end had a lot of theological questions for me and was skeptical that a welcoming church like ours was real. "A welcoming an affirming Baptist church in Reston?? A community of people who would want to get to know me??" I shared some good time with her and she promises to visit soon.

So though John and I and countless other colleagues continue to offer (I like this word better than sell) a product (a.k.a Christ centered community) that many might not want (or right now at least), I hold out hope daily that the church might be one day understood by more as what people truly need but didn't even know that they were looking for. Washington Plaza, for one, will be waiting with open doors.