Here’s a thing I love about the Catholics; if you’re Catholic, you can walk into any Catholic Church anywhere in the world and you belong. You’re not a visitor. I just love that.
I’ve spent a great deal of my life traveling and have wandered into more than a few Protestant churches. When I do, I’m always a visitor and believe me, I know it.
Some churches try to get me to stand up, announce my name and receive some special gift. Others want me to fill out a card and drop it into the offering plate. One church, a congregation of no more than 20 souls, launched into a six round altar call at the end of the sermon. It didn’t take me long to realize that they thought I simply must give my life to Christ. I thought of raising my hand just to get them to stop.
In Afghanistan, I thought of our community as the body of believers in the city in which we lived. “We are part of the church of Christ in this city.” We always knew there were others; Afghans and foreigners who met elsewhere all across the city. We didn’t have buildings to claim as our own. Newcomers in town belonged in our gatherings. Visitors were those who’d climbed off a plane and would only stay for a week or two. They, too belonged in our fellowship.
There is one faith, one hope, one baptism and one God and father of all, but there are many churches.
What would happen if our church said to the community; this church belongs to you? This sanctuary where we gather to worship, learn and share the communion bread and wine is your sanctuary. We are grateful for the opportunity to care for this building, to pay the salary of our pastors and to create a space where you, who belong, can come.
What if instead of saying, “this is our church” we said, “we are the caretakers of this sanctuary”?
How would such an attitude affect our own hearts? How would it affect the world around us?
I don’t know, but I’m sure it would make a difference.
How do you view your church? Is it yours or are you a caretaker for all who belong?