Pastors love to remind you how hard they work, how late they stay up, how early they wake up, and how often their weekends are interrupted by churchy stuff. The pastor who is able to make you feel sorry for the injustice that is their work without the slightest suggestion that they are complaining is an artist. Before you know it, you will apologize for taking our precious time. Then, we finish our masterpiece by lifting our shoulders while staring just over your shoulder in a moment of mock meditation, and with a resigned sigh that no one would buy if it was a movie, mutter something silly about being blessed to be alive.
I won’t bother with all that. I really did stay up past 2 a.m. two out of the last three nights working on a grant application for the church. Please join me in feeling sorry for myself. I’m tired. The good news is that the grant writing exercise forced me to articulate a coherent statement of our vision and an 18 month mission plan. Have you made your plans for 2012 yet? I’ll spare you the 71 scary steps of the 18 month mission plan, but here are some excerpts from the vision statement:
“Downtown Presbyterian NCD desires to be a church with a heart for the city, for the spiritual but not religious people that populate its downtown neighborhoods, and for the former church-goers who haven’t given up on God but are distrusting of institutions and disillusioned with church.”
“...while God has granted the Church authority to share this good news, we the Church still choose to define the freedom afforded when we direct our heart’s rightly toward him as something that only happens in heaven. In this unbalanced equation the world is a place to escape from, creation is a thing to consume on the way out, and the Church is a giant warehouse constructed to keep Christians cozy, well fed, and warm until we can leave. No wonder people are looking for meaning, joy, and community elsewhere.”
“Spiritual transformation, as evidenced by the encounters that Jesus had with blind beggars, social outcasts, and convicted criminals, begins far outside the physical walls of any sanctuary, even those with comfortable theater seats and an in-sync, radio-friendly praise band. Downtown Presbyterian will follow the way of Christ and nurture the spiritual transformation God has already started in hearts turned in the wrong direction, by first meeting people where they are. Such an expression of faith will no doubt necessitate that we leave behind some things that are comfortable yet non-essential, traditional yet unintelligible, ceremonial yet empty.”
If you haven’t given up on the world and by extension Columbia, come and join us. If you are a spiritual misfit, incomplete, but willing to admit it, come and join us. If you want to build something real, come and join us. If you are ready to give it all away, come and join us. God is doing a new thing downtown. We will call it a church, but it won’t resemble any you know.
Mock stare, sigh, mutter something silly - I’m going to bed.