Thank you, researchers and bloggers and pastors and writers who are working earnestly to describe the transition churches are currently undergoing. I am grateful for your words and for your work. Like many of you, I am a faith leader with a keen interest in moving through the 21st century with eyes looking forward and not back. I read thousands of your words about church health and Millennials and what comes next. But lately I find all of that predicting and conjecturing is fueling my perfectionist tendencies and making me anxious.
I wonder if those of us following along in the local church are not just concerned with making our churches healthier but with making this church healthier than that church. Are our attempts to attract young people and be missional and artfully incorporate Periscope into daily routine just subtle forms of competition by which we convince ourselves that this church won’t succumb to a changing culture even if that church shutters its doors?
If I set aside my role as pastor and think about what I really hope for church and need from church, my list doesn’t follow all of the great advice. If I’m being totally honest, it often doesn’t match my calendar. In my church, I want laughter, great conversation and hot coffee. I want a space to breathe and be still. I want silence and poetry even more than I want a 2,000-word sermon. I want to be surrounded by people who tell the truth about their lives and aren’t scared away when I do the same. I want a church that reflects back to me the best of what my life might be — balanced, honest, imperfect and beautiful.
Today, I am grateful for all of the researchers and bloggers but also for the poets who call me to settle into what church is and can be and will be.
“Ode to an Imperfect Church”
by Liz McEwan
You messed up the words again
in the second song, third verse.
It was supposed to be
“You,” not “Thou.”
Maybe no one else noticed,
but I did.
Because I’m a Professional.
And it wasn’t your only mistake this week.
The coffee ran out.
There was a misprint.
I think you forgot to take out the garbage
in the first floor ladies’ room.
And I’m pretty sure
there were supposed to be three,
greeters at the rear door
by the parking lot.
(South side parking lot.)
have not achieved perfection today.
And I’m thankful for it.
Lord, I’m thankful for it.
It’s nice to know that mine isn’t the only home where
the toilet paper runs out
and there is never a pen when I want it,
and the kids are
too darn loud.
And I’m thankful for it,
because I may be a “professional”
by some imaginary definition,
but sometimes my voice cracks, too,
like the lady behind me
who claps off-beat
but is always quick with a smile
when she shakes my son’s hand
while sharing the Peace of Christ.
And I’m thankful that we can
smile at each other
when the microphone goes silent
because we both know that
it’s easy enough to forget to change the battery
and it’s easy enough to hate ourselves for forgetting
and it’s easy enough to believe that the
future of the Kingdom of God hinges on
whether or not we remembered to change the battery.
(Spoiler: it doesn’t.)
It’s hard to learn the art of
being a church that’s good enough
at making space for
the People of God
without taking ourselves so seriously
and doing everything so well
and so seamlessly that
we end up
only making a space for ourselves.
And it’s hard for me to avoid the
nagging voice of professionalism
that makes me want to create a church that
is easy to invite my friends to because
it is never too hot
and never too cold
and it requires nothing
other than showing up
to watch the show.
So I’m thankful for you,
all you gloriously imperfect churches with your
and never quite enough salt on the icy sidewalk.
You are as much home to me as my own home is to me.
And that really is the point,