Thursday, May 08, 2008
Here Is The Church...
My new old home is within blocks of the old Henry Ford homes. These are wonderful old houses built by Mr. Ford for his employees years and years ago. I think that the Ford influence goes beyond the blocks he actually claimed. Our new old house is just a bungalow, not a Ford home like the one shown here. But I can feel the old fashioned neighborhood feel along the street where I live.
The other day I was taking a short cut home from Target when I noticed a little brick church tucked back into the trees of the Ford neighborhood. It was Village Baptist Church, and it doesn't have a web site that I can find. It looked sweet there, perfect in the old Ford neighborhood. I had a strange impulse then, that I want to go to Village Baptist Church. I am not Baptist, have never attended a Baptist church as a regular member. Although brothers and sisters in Christ, there are some differences between "their" beliefs and "our" beliefs and here and there has even been some animosity. Shame on us.
Today I attend a nondenominational modern church. We gather in a converted grocery store under spot lights and smoke machines and worship to modern rock with lyrics on big screens. We have a Panera-esque cafe and a book store. It is many things but quaint is not one. So why this draw to Village Baptist Church all of a sudden?
As I drove on past I thought about it. It seems like it would be comfortable and familiar to me. I bet I'd know most of the hymns and I can imagine sermons that might remind me childhood. Nothing modern inside those walls I bet. After all, no website and no cafe. Church was long over when I drove past but I picture ladies in Sunday best and men in suits walking under the old trees on sunshiny Sunday mornings with Bibles in hand. In the modern world where I live, I guess I convinced myself I could step inside of a Norman Rockwell painting at Village Baptist Church.
For twenty years I'd have debated the finer points of theology and questioned what ministries the church offered. Were they active in overseas missions? What kind of youth ministry? Do they reach out to the disenfranchised? The homeless, mentally ill, AIDs victims? This front-line kind of church has been a part of my life for a long time. Little steepled churches in old fashioned neighborhoods aren't likely to be aggressive in their approach to kingdom work. At least, not the way that draws attention and makes you feel like you're really doing something significant.
I imagine little steepled churches in old fashioned neighborhoods probably open their doors on Sunday mornings with organ music and a pastor in a three piece suit reading from a King James Bible. I bet there's a board somewhere showing where the missionaries are waiting for the offerings of the congregation so that they can teach far away people about Jesus. Maybe in the basement, four or five little ones are sitting around a flannel board learning about Jonah and the Big Fish.
I've been a gospel snob. I've looked down my nose at "Sunday morning Christians." I've attached myself to one or two or five "ministries" in my church as a show of my commitment to the work of God. But today I'm wondering again about a church like Village Baptist Church.
I don't have any idea what it's like in there. If I were to drop in, I might very well high-tail it out of there and regret my flights of fancy. Right now, though, I'm wondering....when did we decide that only the church ministers? What if I go to the Village Baptist Church to sing old hymns to an organ and listen to familiar passages from a preacher to fill up the parts of my soul that are hungry for quiet and comfortable church.
Can't I still love and help and minister even if it isn't official?
Maybe we all need to take a moment to consider that Jesus didn't put a clipboard at the welcome desk to organize outreach. He went to the Temple to be filled and to the streets to be poured out.
I might just dust off my big old fashioned King James Bible and drop by a little steepled church in an old fashioned neighborhood.
Pic: One of the Ford homes not far from my new old house.