(OR: 7 Must- Haves in a Great Church)
Not what you expected from me, right? But, It’s SHOCK AND AWE time. It’s time for a radical departure from lusty commentary on what bewilders, angers and scares the spit out of me about religion, because there are brilliant and beckoning things about the church I have personally encountered in my flight from the Old Testament, its punishing God, and its churchly reflections.
During my spiritual road trip, I found many formidable beacons of hope. I found many instances of a benevolent God with skin on and institutionalized Grace.
These 7 characteristics make a good checklist, if one is looking for a community of faith.
These traits made my spiritual exile and return all the more worthwhile, because I came back with a list of spiritual personality traits that were the perfect match for me. (Online dating metaphor- more SHOCK AND AWE)
This is written in the first person, because each and every one of these gifts has been such a personal blessing for which I am deeply grateful. This is a heartfelt thank you. You all know who you are.
Does this sound like your church?
1) Thank you for seeing the artist in me, loving her, and pulling her out of the safe and anonymous shadows. I got to see myself through God’s eyes, by seeing myself through yours. You showed me that I could write, speak and sing, and that people would actually listen! You taught me to fight my fear of embarrassment or humiliation and see the other side. You taught me that silent is not necessarily safe.
You set me on my path, planted my feet upon it, and then gave me a loving shove by giving me opportunity and then daring me to take it.
I got to recite my poetry for first 10s and then thousands to see. I got to recite it to music! I got to be relevant and even hip, for a moment. You told me I wasn’t too old, young, talentless, (fill in the blank here) to publish.
2) Thank you for being a hospital, not a country club. Only broken, hurting, authentic people find it comfortable here. This means that everyone, absolutely every person who would describe themselves as hurt or broken in some way, is included and welcomed warmly, including me. Thank you for sending the perfect people elsewhere. They are so boring.
3) This is personal to my current church: I adore you because you have fought for and maintained a choir. I’m not even in the choir, but I love what this means! It is an acknowledgement that each and every one of us is a Worship Leader, each in our unique way, and the union and blend of these disparate parts is the body of Christ.
4) Thank you to the pastor, his family and the staff for being unapologetically real, broken people. This makes me not just respect you, but love you and I will be even more attentive to the things you say and the lessons you can teach. You are always careful not to say or do inappropriate things, but you are not actively managing your image.
5) Thank you for not being too big to know me or too small to hold me or my ideas and questions. You are family, not a city. Although I do not cut a large leadership swath through the congregation, and the frequency of my church attendance approximates that of solar flares or meteor showers, everyone knows me, including all church staff. Everyone knows I’m out trying to do my thing- no guilt. My emails are answered. I cannot overstate what these small recognitions of my personhood and worthiness have meant to my spiritual healing and development.
6) Thank you for being a sanctuary in the true definition of the word. We are safe to temporarily remove our armor and reveal ourselves here.
We all need to find and cultivate our “people”: those who want and accept the truth from us, no matter what. They do this because they want us to continue to grow and evolve. These people can be anywhere, but a good church should have this general characteristic. Growth is messy and judgment is counterproductive.
7) Thank you for being substance over form. This is what I like about you and what I like about Pope Frank. You encourage a dialogue and an open discussion about what we believe and why we believe it. True Grace over Churchiness.
Images supplied by L E Kinzie. All rights reserved.