It's tempting in the Christian church to talk a lot about reaching out to our community and our world. We hear many sermons about what we should be doing: how we should be serving, how we should be connecting, and how we should be convicted. And I think we appreciate the challenges, for the most part. We've all had the conversation about not being comfortable with a comfortable church setting, or a sterile Christian environment. We think the church should be involved with the widows, orphans, and the poor. We believe that the church should be engaged in the community. We encourage each other to live out the gospel, meet needs, talk to the hurting, communicate with our neighbours.
But it's always been easier to talk about doing these things than actually doing them. The fact of the matter is, when the church is living out its convictions, life gets messy. On Sundays, kids can be loud. Strangers who are drawn in can miss some of the "Christian cues of worship etiquette." People from different Christian backgrounds and experiences can clash over petty and tribal things. Throughout the week, people can make a mess in our building, high-need characters distract and consume our staff's time, and unbelievers (gasp!) who darken our church doors can say the most colourful things. Neighbours are not communicative, or trusting, or wanting to hear what we have to say.
Jesus brings light in the midst of decay and darkness; that doesn't make the decay odourless.
But amazing things can grow out of manure. And a perfectly staid and sterile church is probably not much of a church at all. Jesus calls people. And people are messy. And there's nothing overly romantic about messes. When we live out the gospel well, we live in this tension. It's what Emmanuel has wrestled with for years. I'd have it no other way.
Welcome to messy church! Grab a broom or a cleaning cloth and lend a hand!
On an aside, Emmanuel has always had a pretty relaxed open door policy, with volunteers coming and going at all hours of the week. This is a good thing. However, we need to be wise. If you are in the locked church after hours, please do not open the church doors to allow in people you do not know. Thanks for your help in this manner!