I’m celebrating ten years at Woodbrook Baptist Church this month.
That’s some 520 worship services
(give or take some that were “blizzarded” out!),
450, let’s say, Wednesday nights
(factoring in some weeks off during summers).
That’s countless conversations and prayers.
That’s conversions and baptisms and family dedications,
hellos and good-byes,
weddings and funerals.
That’s celebrations and accomplishments,
griefs and concerns—
all shared within the covenant of our fellowship.
and community of which I’m so very proud.
Community that’s more than a gathering
of like-minded, like-educated, like-believing
like-statused people I like to be with.
And yes, it’s community manifest in the freedom
to say something from the pulpit
and then to be challenged at the door—
not challenged in anger and rejection,
but challenged to think about another perspective
because you were heard—
because it’s an ongoing conversation,
but you know where I see community
manifest perhaps most clearly?
In another aspect of our corporate worship—
in our music.
Because we include music in worship I don’t like—
wouldn’t ever choose.
But I love watching people I love
who love that music in worship,
and I wouldn’t swap it out for what I would choose
for the world.
We have members who can’t stand the organ
(did you know that?).
And while they might say they’d love to never hear it again,
I suspect that’s not true
(certainly not because there’s something to the organ
that’s irreplaceable in and to worship),
but because of those in our community
for whom the organ’s beautiful.
And in celebrating what someone else likes,
I’ve come to appreciate the subtle invitation
inherent in what I don’t like:
how might I appreciate this?
In our worship, it’s there for a reason.
This we trust.
So is there a way I can claim it,
not liking it myself—
and claim it not just because someone else does like it,
but also because we believe God does not
just affirm us for “being authentic”—
but desires transformative experience—
a solid enough community for an ever-growing
that consistently challenges boundaries
in ways always exciting and full of potential,
but also always potentially scary and painful.
This can make it challenging for visitors.
If you don’t have that sense of community
it’s hard to appreciate what you don’t like
because of who you do
let alone wonder at the appreciation
of what you don’t like—
its increasing value to a faith not just defined by what’s liked.
So that becomes our challenge, doesn’t it?
How do we invite people into our community
of which our worship is an integral and sustaining part?
That’s why announcements are important in worship—
not just something to get through,
but invitation into community,
right?—into schedules and prayers and relationships.
That’s why it will continue to be so important
that visitors experience the warmth of our fellowship.
It’s us you need to get to know—
us doing what we do,
more than how we do what we do.
Because that us, we believe,
labors to incarnate the image of God—
not in homogeneity,
in consistency and agreement,
but in the dynamic interaction of community
focused on the redeeming of creation.
That’s certainly not soundbyte friendly—
more of a blog than a tweet,
but maybe we’ve conceded too much to brevity
as the hallmark of our age.
Oh, soundbytes aren’t going anywhere.
And we probably do need to tweet more.
But there are people who yearn
for the acknowledgement of complexity and mystery
that most soundbytes cannot convey.
And our culture needs the dissenting voice
that still preaches for twenty minutes (more or less!),
and celebrates redeeming conversations lasting decades,
and the irreducible richness of story and relationship,
and priorities that transcend the individual—
rooted in the community
shaped in the image of God.
That remains our challenge.
And isn’t that fun?
To look back on ten years is to envision what’s to be.
So it’s really not ten years gone.
It’s ten years of building and growing.
It’s not ten years to look back on,
but ten years from which to look ahead
to what is yet to be.