The thoughts in this post pose some interesting questions, which are the reasons behind why I wrote it in the first place. The questions are at the end…if the story becomes boring feel free to skip down and read them. I’d love your thoughts on them as well…
“Lonely Old Men, & Poetry”
Last night our simple church decided to go to what we thought was an “open mic night” at the Coffee Bean. The Bean is right down the street, and we’re always sure to meet people who live in our neighborhood when we go there. Our purpose was to build some relationships, and a couple of us were possibly going to contribute to the “open mic”…
Much to our dismay, we had received a bit of inaccurate information about “open mic night”. Turns out it was really “Poetry Reading Night”. We thought, “What’s difference does it make? We came to build relationships. Why would that change because it’s open poetry reading, and not open mic, right?” We had also spent some time covering the evening in prayer at the house before heading up to the Coffee Bean. So, we, a bit reluctantly, joined the group of poets in the back room. It was closed off from the rest of the coffee shop, probably due to the language/content of the poetry. Not to mention they had the mic CRANKED up.
It did not take us long to realize that this was going to be a long night. What we thought was open mic night was actually poetry night. What was SUPPOSED to be poetry night should have actually been called, “Erotic, Sexual Poetry Reading by Creepy, Old, Lonely Men and Women Night.” Haha! I won’t go into detail here, but you can imagine what we were hearing. Each person had crafted their wildest sexual fantasies into a poem to share with the entire group; all included MUCH use of the “F” word. Enough said.
I am really proud of our community for being such “troopers”, not judgmental, and having true compassion in their hearts for those we spent the evening with last night. For the most part we’ve all been far removed from our previous “Christian Bubbles”, which completely sheltered us from the world, sin, and the potential to be temped. Being around “sin” doesn’t make us want to leave so we don’t get “tainted”, or hinder us from remembering our purpose. We go confidently into dark situations having faith that the LIGHT is US in far more powerful than the DARKNESS we’ve entered into; we’re also “prayed up”, and on mission together as believers. (The Bible talks a bit about this believe it or not = )
There is one very important thing that came to my mind last night as we were sitting in the back room of the Coffee Bean while creepy old men were talking about their dream girl being tied to the bed…
I could not help but think that the way we felt sitting in this room (A bit uncomfortable, uneasy, not used to the atmosphere, confused, unsure of how to act, curious, maybe a bit offended, etc.) must be what it feels like to be an UNbeliever walking into a “church” for the first time…(Please do not hear me picking on the “institution” here. This “happening” can easily take place in a simple, or house church setting as well)
Think about it: We walked into the poetry reading as “outsiders”, not knowing much about it, the people, etc. We were greeted, and found our seats quietly. The next hour was spent in the context of a completely different, and new atmosphere. The language was different, the way people spoke, the things they spoke about, the attitudes they had, the activities they participated in, the way they expressed emotion, the music they listened to, etc. Of course, not all of these things were bad, or negative by any means. However, that is all we know of poetry night at the Bean, and probably all we’ll ever know unless we intentionally pursue relationships with those people outside of poetry night. Being there that night did not make us better-equipped poets or poem readers. We will most likely not “join” the poetry-reading group based upon our experience last night.
So, could our experience last night (Believers in a dark setting with unbelievers-on THEIR turf) be very similar to the experience an UN-churched person might have when they walk into a “church”? (Unbelievers in a “bright” setting-on OUR turf). It makes me think about the times Jesus encountered sinners in the scripture, and who’s turf they were usually on. Did Christ expect the darkness to be attracted to the light, come to Him, and be changed? Or, did he take the light out into the darkness and see lives transformed?
Hopefully this will help us to all think more about our unbelieving friends, and where they’re at. We, for a brief moment last night, were “in their shoes”. We learned what it must feel like to walk into a brand new place with new people who dress differently, talk differently, sing different songs, use different language, go on different vacations, enroll their kids in special schools, listen to special radio stations, shop for music & books at special stores, etc. etc. etc.
Should our weekly services be for unbelievers, or for believers?
Should we be trying to accomplish effective discipleship & evangelism SIMULTANEOUSLY using the same weekly service? Are both not going to suffer greatly in the process?
Could two serious issues in the American church today (Weak discipleship & being “seeker sensitive”) come to an end if we stopped putting all of our eggs in the “weekly church service” basket, ceasing to attempt to be both “seeker sensitive” & solid disciple makers with this ONE tool?
(I don’t know of many churches who would admit that this is their ONLY “tool”, but there’s no denying that it is the primary tool used to attempt to achieve both of the above outcomes. If you’ve EVER spent any time on staff at a church then you know that most of the time, energy, resources, etc. are poured into the weekly worship gathering)