The joy of this hybrid home/Internet church is that I can pretty much have “church” anywhere. And because I work with other Internet churches, like my friends at The Phoenix Congregational Fellowship, I can do church without leaving my house. And so can you.
I have a friend who likes to go to our church and is finding great peace in it because his life is anything but peaceful. Yet he isn’t a regular because he says he needs “a bigger group of people to worship with.” He later confessed that he sometimes just likes to go where no one knows his name, problems, or woes.
Like so many of us, he finds his peace in being invisible in a crowd of brokenness.
I also like to just be spiritually fed in someone else’s circus and be entertained by other people’s monkeys. And every now and then, I will slip inside a church where no one knows my name or asks me questions that I should have the right answer for.
This past Sunday I went to the grand opening of a new church in my community. And a series of smiling faces people ready to greet me at every turn. One hands me a tote bag, another a clipboard to fill out my email,and another slapping a “Hello my name is” sticker on my shirt, and finally someone at the door shaking my hand and calling me by name. (Yes, all that before going inside) So much for blending in.
I sat in the middle row seats, off to the far left side. And tried hard to blend in. But something just didn’t feel right. People kept coming up to me to introduce themselves. I pretended to pray, but that too would be interrupted with a greeting, but a concerned look on their face in place of a smile.
As a minister I understand the amount of hospitality needed to launch a new church and to make people feel welcomed. So I can honestly say it wasn’t the lack of connection that felt odd as much as it was this idea of being invisible in a crowd of brokenness. What was I thinking? I can’t blend in. Impostor! Judas! Monkey!
It felt like was hiding my light under a basket when all it wanted to do was shine.
This is what ministry is all about, shining brightly so the world can see and be drawn to the light of Christ. I am a minister, not a spectator. A teacher also and not just a student. I have a calling, and a purpose. Denying it is not an option. Neither is being invisible.
I believe we all are ministers in one form or another. And each one of us has a mission to fulfill.
Henry Nouwen wrote, “We seldom realise fully that we are sent to fulfill God-given tasks. We act as if we have to choose how, where, and with whom to live. We act as if we were simply plopped down in creation and have to decide how to entertain ourselves until we die. But we were sent into the world by God, just as Jesus was. Once we start living our lives with that conviction, we will soon know what we were sent to do.”
In John’s Gospel,Jesus prays to his Father for his followers, saying: "As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world" (John 17:18).
Big church, home church, church online, we are called to be in community with each other...and our mission or ministry is to proclaim the gospel everywhere we go. Our goal is to show the world God’s perfect love for them by being God’s love in the world for them.
Perfect love does not blend in and can’t be camouflage or hidden or remain invisible. In fact, it does the opposite. It awakens a new found joy, spirit, and light that is impossible to contain.
Just as Jesus sent his disciples out into the world to share God’s love and grace, so too are we sent. And we can’t fulfill this gospel of love if we hide within ourselves...or in a crowded, public place like church.