Saturday, October 15, 2011

Church stuff

One of the strangest things about being on sabbatical is that I don't get to gather with my church very often. It's a little like fasting that way. This week I've had more connection with people from Central than at any other time during this sabbatical. It's been refreshing, and fun. I have missed these people.

Yesterday I got to do quite a lot of church stuff. Now, maybe you're thinking that means I preached or led worship, did a baptism, filled out some certificates, and that kind of thing. I did none of that. As readers know, I have been listening to a lot of N.T. Wright lately, and he makes the point quite often that the mission of the church is to be in prayer and action at the place where the world is in pain. So here are a few examples of what I got to do yesterday.

  • I had a long conversation with a friend who has been hit hard by the economic downturn. This was not a counseling session but lunch between friends, what Martin Luther called "the mutual conversation and consolation of the saints."
  • I dropped off my wife and daughter as they headed out to spend a week caring for children at the Manuelito Project in Honduras. We got their luggage and supplies loaded in the van and I had the privilege of praying over the group before they left.
  • I attended my daughter Erica's concert at Bethel University last night, and invited a young couple who just moved to the Twin Cities to join me. On the drive there, we had some interesting conversation about different churches and what they believe and what they have in common -- namely Jesus.
  • Once we got to the concert, I ran into Erica's roommates and got to give hugs and ask about how they're doing. (If you've ever been a lonely college student, you know it can mean a lot to have a surrogate parent who cares about you around from time to time.)
There were a few other details yesterday as well -- spending some time keeping a promise to my younger daughter by laying carpet and fixing windows on her old duck shed that is rapidly becoming an outdoor hangout now that the ducks are gone, spending some time reading my Bible and doing some theological studying -- but you get the idea. You might well be reading that list saying, "So what?" No big churchy things there. Aside from one semi-public prayer, no real mission-of-the-church activities.


The mission of the church is to be in prayer and action at the place where the world is in pain. A little bit of reaching out in love, a little bit of supporting other Jesus-followers who are doing mission work, a little bit of prayer, a little bit of mutual conversation about the goodness of God in difficult times ... these are the mission of the church. There is more, of course, and occasionally we do big important world-changing stuff that looks significant. Most days, though, we would do well to remember that the little important world changing stuff that looks insignificant is what we are really called to do.

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