This weekend, I had the privilege of helping clean profane graffiti off the sidewalk in front of our Church. A friend from the Church and I spent time Saturday morning working to get it clean with a power washer, paint thinner, and a wire brush. On one hand, I was angry that someone would do this in our little slice of Mayberry, but on the other hand, it made me realize that we can no longer pretend that the Church has a privileged place in society as it once did (Post-Christendom) even in rural America.
Not long ago, I read a post or an article about someone saying the trash on their church lawn reminded them of the messiness of the world and was a call and reminder of the mission to which we are called outside our doors. Believe it or not, this statement gave me the strength to pray we could reach the kind of people who would spray paint on a Church sidewalk with the good news of God’s Kingdom.
Even as I was breathing this prayer, a little boy from next door walked up to see what we were doing. He proceeded, without blinking, to recite the profanity written across the street at the school, and asked if we had seen it. When we said no he proceeded to give us a parable. He said, “Who owns this Church anyway?” I tried to explain that it is like the school and it is owned by a group (since he likely had never heard of a denomination). He said, “No our principal owns the school.” Maybe so! That’s sure the way it’s structured from a third-graders perspective, isn’t it? He then said, “I know who owns it anyway,” and then pointed at my house across the street. “That guy over there owns it.” My buddy was laughing, when I told him I was “that guy over there.”
A few minutes later, I invited the little guy to the Church I “own.” He ran in and asked his grandmother, and lo and behold showed up yesterday morning – on the second row, with his feet propped up on the pew in front of him, like he owned the place. During our welcome, when we go around and shake hands, he was up on stage running his hand through the flame of the candles!
Who owns the Church anyway? Jesus said to save your life you must lose it. To save the Church, maybe we need to lose it. If so, I can’t think of a better way than by handing over the keys to a little poor third-grader who lives next door with his grandma. Sounds crazy…almost like a parable.