A Welcome Family of Believers,
Pursuing a Closer Walk with God
"In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have not told you that I go to prepare a place for you?" - John 14:2
For a long time, I've always interpreted Jesus' words about the many rooms in his Father's house through the lens of having to share a room with my step-brother when I was younger. It always seemed like such a luxury: the opportunity for privacy and a place to call my own.
Over the last several years, though, I've begun to see Jesus meant something else entirely when he described his Father's casa. Jesus is talking about the vast diversity and spacious dwelling for all those who make up the body of Christ. It was a reminder that in God's house, there is plenty of room for all types of persons and individuals to find what most makes them feel at home. The Father's house has many dwelling places: for introverts and for extroverts, for global and for linear people, for those who like the old hymns and for those who are into trying out new ways of praying.
We have come a long way in the last few decades in regards to our understanding and awareness of our unique personalities, although we've only affirmed what the psalmist already knew long ago: we are intricately woven in our mother's womb, and are "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Ps. 139:14). Truly, no two individuals are alike.
What this means for us as a church family is that it becomes important to provide different and unique opportunities for those who come into the life of our church. Some will be looking for the pleasing grandeur of a well sung anthem, and they will be lucky to come to our church. Others will be looking for a serious engagement with the political and social issues of our day. Still others will want to explore their walk with Christ in a deeper, more contemplative way.
I love what a Joanne Knight wrote about her experience in getting involved with her church: "There often comes a time in a Christian life when faithful attendance on Sunday morning, singing in the choir, or chairing a committee for an event and participating in outreach is simply not enough ... There develops a desire for going deeper into an understanding of faith and one's relationship to God ..." (Dwight Judy, A Quiet Pentecost, pg. 27). Her quote captures how diverse our journey into the life of a church body can be. In her case, she eventually recognized a desire to go into another room in her journey with Christ. But, it is important to celebrate the importance of every stage! For her, it meant recognizing her tendencies towards prayer. But, the Father's house is full of many rooms, not just prayer rooms! All of those other rooms are important and valuable too! We should be thankful for all the ways God helps our church family feel at home - whether we are talking about someone who is just grateful for a place to worship when she is in Greencastle or someone who has found real joy and support through her family of choir members. We have a SAWs room. We have a Round Barn Daycare room. There are many rooms in Greencastle Presbyterian Church, and that is certainly something to celebrate because that means we are mirroring our Father's house.
As elders and deacons we can give thanks all the ways people are connecting with our church, but our role is to do more than just celebrate, isn't it? Our role is also to make sure we are continuing to help each of our members feel at home and welcome - even to provide unique "rooms" for their unique personalities. How wonderful is it that we have seen this manifested in very specific ways with our actual building? Through John Anderson's good work with the Smock Grant we now have two bathrooms that have been updated and two more that will be - helping both our older members and our younger children feel more at home. And that's not all. Kyle Johnson, and Paul and Kara Jedele have poured a lot of energy into making our youth feel more welcome in our church.
We are also helping create new rooms - like these "Getting Back to Good News" conversations. These are great opportunities for us to learn more about our unique personalities, and I was fascinated to learn new things about some that I thought I knew fairly well ... and to find out more about some of our newer guests. My prayer for these conversations is that God will use them to help us get to know one another, and I know it very well may lead to other things down the road. I hope you will join me in praying too.
As I said to the lunch group yesterday, these are open conversations, not commitments. So, please, feel free to join us whenever you can. And please continue to keep spreading the word. I've already heard from several people who plan to be at the group tomorrow evening, but there's still room for more.
We can be very grateful for the Spirit's presence in the life of our congregation and for all the ways we care for one another. And let's continue to think about and listen through prayer and discussion about what else we can do to make room for others. It's great to serve with and for you.
Where do you see us doing a good job in providing space and welcome for those coming into our church?
How can we become a more welcoming family of believers for both our younger and our older generations?
Some have said that there are six different "streams" or "rooms" within the Christian body: charismatic, holiness, evangelistic/missional, justice/outreach, contemplative, and Word-centered. What "rooms" most describe our church home?