I now go to a church that takes place on the street. With a consistent congregation of a couple dozen from all backgrounds and no building, it is not what one typically thinks of when they think of the American church. Yet, I have learned so much about who God is and how He works from the absence of all the bells and whistles of a typical church and the presence of ordinary, broken people like me.
Throughout the years God has worked on convicting me of the destruction that can occur from ‘trying to remove the speck from my neighbor’s eye, while having a plank in my own eye.’ Building up an idea of what a christian woman or man should look like and holding everyone around me accountable to my one definition of godliness narrows my relationship with God to religion and destroys my humanity. Why do I choose to see who people are not and not who they are? If I were to look at myself with the same pair of glasses there would not be much difference. God crafted us with different gifts and different struggles expressed in different stories and everyone is equally guilty of rejecting Him. The simplicity of this perspective is refreshing. Suddenly, there is no need to compare someone who diligently goes to church and someone who is addicted to drugs. Spiritually speaking, there is no difference between the two. Both will stand before God alone for the justice of their offenses. All I can do is actively discover their hearts so I can love who God made them to be.
In the church, I think it becomes really easy to forget how truly equal we all are. Pursuing righteousness slyly slips into the throne of our hearts and becomes the object of our focus instead of God. We use this shiny idol to gauge how adequate our lives are. We compare our idol of righteousness to other people’s idol of righteousness. Those who have similar ideas of what is right clump together in a wonderfully beautiful church with bookshelves filled with wonderfully Christ centered books. Others who have a different perspective of righteousness clump together in a different wonderful church with a different variation of wonderful Christ centered books. And all the time we are completely unaware that we lost our focus. If God was our true focus we would no longer distinguish the differences between our sins. The gift of grace would be this intense celebration that leads to utter love of everyone and anyone, even someone who you potentially have nothing in common with.
That is what I’ve discovered showing up each Sunday morning at 10:30 a.m. to sit outside on a bench in front of a donut shop. No stained glass windows. No nice clothes. No fancy worship set. No deacons. No expectations of what your life should look like. There in that place we share in conversation on an equal playing field. Our only tools to function as a church are the Bible, prayer, a few instruments and speakers for worship, and volunteers who are eager to preach about what God has whispered to them. I do not point this out to condemn the church, just to ask what if the church wasn’t the church as we typically think of it? What if the mission of every church was as basic as, know God and love people. Wouldn’t everything else fall into place after that?