Occasionally, thoughts for a blog get stuck in my head and I have a difficult time putting them together to write the blog. I have started this same blog six different times and it has not gotten off the ground. It is very possible I am overthinking it: I don’t like to offend people and I understand sometimes when I present ideas which do not fit nicely into mainstream thinking, it is possible for people to get offended. There are times, however, when I am just bursting with thoughts about how things are done and I have to get them out.
I keep thinking perhaps we are on the wrong track in our approach to Christianity. Pretty much since 1975 when Willow Creek Community Church came on the scene with its contemporary approach to Sunday morning church and grew to its megachurch size, churches everywhere have tried to follow its example. I do understand how oftentimes contemporary business principles can be applied to individual churches and can help them function more efficiently. I also understand how a contemporary approach can help churches attract more members - and from a marketing perspective most people utilize church numbers to help gauge success rates. There’s always a “but”, though. In this case I guess I just start to wonder if Christian society has placed God neatly into a great big contemporary box.
Many churches emulate the world in terms of the use of multimedia, contemporary music and an informal presentation of their message - as a result, large numbers of people who prefer those elements are drawn in and ministered to. They join small groups and sign up for ministry and begin to do the things God has for them. Don’t get me wrong here, I do not think that is necessarily a bad thing - a significant number of people attend contemporary churches regularly and feel very at home there. Where the “but” comes in for me is in the assumption if you are not attending and involved at one of those types churches, you are somehow a lesser Christian or there is something wrong with your faith. There is also an attitude of: if you don’t like MY church you must have problems and somehow you need to be fixed.
The fact is - even though the contemporary church formula works for large numbers of people, it doesn’t work for everyone. It simply does not and it is a bit arrogant of us to think OUR church and OUR way are somehow superior to any other. The God I read of in the Bible doesn’t seem to think like that. He made everyone unique. Being unique means we are different and God designed us that way. I used to be so hypocritical and narrow in my thinking, conveniently overlooking that fact. I quietly assumed people who didn’t like MY church didn’t like my God, or were just shallow Christians, or were somehow stuck in the past, clinging to hymns and traditions God was no longer using. Then I suddenly found myself on the other side of the aisle and all the old myths I so confidently embraced were shattered; I have had to resist the impulse to gather, re-assemble and put them back together so I could stuff them once again into the comfortable, contemporary Christian box in which I kept God.
As I meet people and move forward with The Torch, it is crystal clear to me there are many Christians in our society who are trying to make it on their own. It’s not that they don’t want to go to a church, or even that they necessarily are not attending one, it’s just that they realize they don’t quite fit into the contemporary Church world for whatever reason. Often, they are looking for an opportunity to serve God where they fit. I don’t think it is any coincidence God is drawing people like that to The Torch. Ironically, I used to mentally write people off if they didn’t go to my definition of the "right" church. Boy was I a shallow person and boy have I grown in my understanding of God.
Let’s face it - reaching out to needy, hopeless people with a food truck is a different approach to an age-old situation. We have been criticized, written off and ignored by some people, and yet, at the same time, God has sent affirmation, hope and joy to us through this effort. That’s the part we so desperately want to share with EVERYONE. Sarah and I hope we can break existing stereotypes of people in need, the homeless, and maybe even Christian misfits like us. We chose the name, The Torch, because we love the symbolism of being a light that draws people close. All people. Any people. If that means we have to change and grow along the way, then we will change and grow along the way. If we have to fit a little less comfortably into mainstream Christianity, then we will fit a little less comfortably into mainstream Christianity. I have found a sense of freedom in God and faith I didn’t know I was capable of through the course of these past several years. That makes sense, though: it is hard to stretch and grow when you are inside a box.