Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Journey vs. destination

Last month, our Vision Team began working on a mission statement for The Well. There were many things that we felt spoke to who we are and to who we want to become as a church. In describing the core practices that help us fulfill our mission, we described ourselves as:
"Journeying: We are fellow-travellers who are seeking to follow Christ in the midst of our daily lives. We acknowledge that none of us has arrived, that we have much to learn, and that for us, church is journey, not destination."
I think that for so many of us, church has become a place where we arrive - a building, a program, a place to have everything make sense. Church as destination makes church a one time event, an occasion, and our one opportunity to connect with God. Church as a journey turns our gatherings into stops along the way, but make the other moments on the way no less precious and no less important. Church becomes something that we are a part of, something that goes with us. We do not arrive at church, we are the church wherever we go as Christ followers.

As we traveled to Atlanta this weekend, I was reflecting on this idea. A group of us partnered to help Edgewood Church do some work around their building, and to hear more about their experience starting a church in an urban neighborhood. I knew the building needed some work, but must admit I was a little surprised at the amount of work that will need to take place. There was no flooring yet, many rooms had damaged windows, and there were several puddles of water that had come from who knows where. There was a lot to be done, but the church was not waiting for the work to be completed; they had already begun occupying the space.

The next morning as we arrived for worship, I did not notice the building's problems. What I did notice was the warm welcome, the sincerity of the worship, the genuine hospitality and the sense of community. This church was not waiting until things are all in place to begin being church, and I think I know why. For Edgewood Church, there is no need to wait because church is not about having it all together, it's about being a community of Christ followers in the midst of our messy lives. If we wait until we have the perfect building, the right words to say, until everything runs smoothly, until we have the answers and know exactly where we're headed, we miss out on the truly important ways that we are called to follow Christ together. We are so focused on arriving somewhere that we fail to see the beauty that's all around us.

I saw the beauty this weekend. We went to Atlanta to learn more about church starting, but church happened on the journey. I saw it as my sister in Christ, Faith Buan, worshiped in a way that was meaningful to her. I saw it as Nathan, one of pastors of Edgewood Church, gave a man in his congregation an opportunity earn an income. I heard it in conversations where personal stories were shared and as strangers became friends. Church is journey, not destination - we do not leave it on Sundays, it goes with us and continues to shape, challenge, encourage, and strengthen us.

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