When our second Network goal for 2013 appeared, some people immediately asked some anxious questions and some got downright upset! But all it said was that “people need to see Jesus where they live” and “we need to be good storytellers,” so we are going to “generate opportunities for our worship to be more public.” We already have public worship every week in our buildings and lots of people have found us there, but we are going to make it even more public by taking it to where people live in some way.
What could be the big deal? People did not have a big problem with the idea (the discerning process came up with it, after all), but they were less aware of what it might mean until they saw suggestions for how it would be implemented, like “improv” and “busking” and a “touring PM team.” They suddenly had visions of intrusive preachers with portable microphones, and of people thinking that we are cheesy Christians imposing our cheesy songs on an unsuspecting public. The whole idea seemed too out there, too embarrassing, too prone to getting a bad review on Yelp. Seriously.
How did Jesus get out there?
We caused an interesting debate. I sympathize with some people who can’t imagine Jesus with his guitar out on a Capernaum sidewalk (the fact that there were no sidewalks is another matter, have some imagination!). And he did tell us not to pray on street corners. But what about this from Matthew 8?
When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.
When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
“He took up our infirmities
and bore our diseases.”
The question I ask of this scripture is this: was Jesus trying to be private and people found him in spite of all his efforts? Was he just doing a private act of kindness for his best friend into whose house he felt comfortable enough to enter and find his mother laying around? That might be a shy Christian’s dream: healing as personal, private, intimate, secret, and in the family. They might say, “Jesus was just being good and people found out about it; they took the initiative, so He didn’t look proud. He didn’t look like he was trying to make a big deal about being the Son of God and doing miracles, or looking like he thought people should be impressed with him and pay attention to who he was and what he was doing. He wasn’t making trouble for someone by doing miracles in their backyard without a permit, or causing some uproar with the police.”
Or did Jesus walk into Peter’s house unannounced, even, or walk in because someone in the crowd told him the woman had a fever, just busting in to her private space. Did he touch her, fully knowing that it would be all over Capernaum and on up the hill to Nazareth in a couple of minutes? Shouldn’t he at least have had a feeling that by evening all sorts of people would be showing up to be healed? And didn’t he have some sort of consciousness that he was meant to be known for bearing people’s diseases? Did he ever do anything that he didn’t think was going to make a difference and didn’t he always think he was born to make a difference?
There are reasons to be scared
I think we are just a little scared to get “out there” in ways that put us next to uncontrollable people and bring us in contact with the authorities and powers that run our streets. And there is reason to be scared. To be honest about the example of Jesus, it won’t be long after Matthew 8 that he will be in trouble with all sorts of authorities and powers. So there is something out there to inspire fear, if we are so inclined.
But it is a little strange that some of us can’t get our heads around the example of Jesus going to where people are! Some of us are out selling energy products, we meet people giving us free vodka in bars, we get free tastes in the Reading Terminal and we experience all sorts of people finding every way possible to get on our screens. Yet Jesus is supposed to wait until he is somehow discovered lest we seem too aggressive.
We say that Life in Christ is one whole cloth. As we participate in and love “the world,” we bring redemption from the Kingdom of God to our society. Jesus is Lord of all, so we have repented of separating “sacred” and “secular.” But it is true that the secularists have not repented of isolating the sacred and legislating against anything but what they deem tolerant. So it is hard to present oneself as a Jesus follower and not expect opposition, perhaps vocal and even legal! I think the younger one is the scarier it has become: “I won’t be able to have a job. They’ll find a picture of me busking. I’ll get tagged as an extremist. They’ll label me a hater.”
Nevertheless, I am still glad for the courage that prompted our goal. I don’t think the goal came from nowhere. I think it is intimately connected to the heart of Jesus. Who busted into Peter’s disease-filled house with healing and then poured his goodness on everyone else who thought he just might be their Savior. Taking worship to more public places is such a sweet way to confront the powers with epiphany and help seekers find us. I suspect we have even more “out there” ways up our sleeves.
4 thoughts on “Get Out There in the Face of Fear”
Well said Rod! I truly love the idea of a public meeting being in the public. I have a friend in Cali whose “church” meets at the laundry mat. I love the idea of the church being outside the walls of the church building.
Since we have some buskers in our midst, our Stakeholders came up with the idea of playing songs near the Bell Tower at Temple. We loved wassailing so much this year, we figured this wasn’t that different!
Looks like fund
One of my favorite times last year was when I crashed B&W’s public reading of Mark on Independence Mall on Monday night of Holy Week. (I got Facebook invite and thought it was a network event; when I later found it wasn’t, I decided to go anyway.)
It was simple, quiet, and we were in an isolated corner of the park. It was cold. Not too many folks wandered by or even noticed we were there. But there we were, reading the gospel in the Temple, the heart of the birthplace of “freedom and democracy”. It was powerful.
I like the idea of all 4 congregations, in 4 corners of the park, each reading one of the 4 gospels.
Oh, and I get street preachers, music teams, and all sorts of loud obstructive preaching on my street corner. Every weekend. Soooo not our style. We are nothing if not subtle and respectful. I have no reason to fear whatever forms of “public worship” we dream up this year.