I once knew a soccer mom with whom I spent many weekends watching our daughters play. She was hilarious and inappropriate. She drank too much. She wore fun earrings. I liked her so much. Let’s call her Stella.
Stella: So if I walked in your church next Sunday, what would you say that made me take you seriously?
Me: (Ugh. Not much?)
I lived in dread that some random Sunday, Stella would show up, sit on a back pew, cross her arms, and give me an irreverent “So, I’m here. Rock my world” look.
She never did, but the fear made me a better preacher. I was forced to consider if the message I was sharing was consequential in any way to a skeptical, secular friend. It kept me from ever preaching a sermon like I heard once, trying to convince us that Jesus rose on a Tuesday, not a Sunday. (Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.)
Obviously I’ve preached enormous heaps of dross sometimes but the hope is that there has been more gold than dross- thanks be to God.
Nevertheless, everybody needs a Stella to keep us on our toes.
I was asked just yesterday by someone who is not a believer, “What’s the best thing one of the churches you work with does?” My first thoughts were not “Fill the pews on Sunday” or “Offer excellent music.” I thought of the church with the safe after-school program in a neighborhood prone to violence. I thought of the tutoring program that connects hundreds of young adults with local students. I thought of the food banks and the clothing closets.
Shifts in the 21st Century Church include these: “consumer Christianity is dying and a more selfless discipleship is emerging” and “attendance no longer drives engagement; engagement drives attendance.” (Carey Nieuwhof)
Especially for Stella and her friends, making a difference in this ridiculously troubled world is the point. We realize gaps in our lives and the need to make a difference. And doing this in community makes it easier and more meaningful. And there is a God who created us for good. And this God is worthy of getting to know and honoring.
Today’s prayer: I believe. Help my unbelief – especially when I fail to minister to the Stellas in my life.