Once again, I’ve been inspired to write by a Facebook post. The friend posted about working with a group of people to help the homeless on the streets of San Francisco. They weren’t just feeding people, but were interacting with them and really listening to their stories. He commented on the big dreams that were still in the hearts of some, but had been held out of reach by the evils of addiction. The friend related their activity to being “a church without walls”.
It reminded me of a conversation I had years ago with a guy who was cutting my hair. We got onto the subject of churches and he voiced his somewhat negative opinion of them. I asked him what the ideal church would look like to him. He said, “It would be a church without walls”. That statement stuck with me and I’ve pondered it many times since.
I was raised in church and we moved often when I was growing up, so I got to see many differences in each church we attended. Even when they all taught out of the same book, each minister seemed to have their own interpretation of how church life should be done. Early on, I was exposed to the negative impact that results when a leader makes church life all about rules rather than a relationship with God. I saw the damage that’s done when the one in charge abuses their power and uses the sermon to manipulate people rather then empower them to live their life in a positive way. Early on, I saw the destruction that comes to the members when the Pastor lives a secret, darker life, on every other day than Sunday.
Disclaimer: Don’t get me wrong here. This post isn’t meant to bash the whole church. I’ve seen and experienced way more good from church than I have negative. I’m looking at the negative here, because that’s what seems to get the focus of the world outside the church and gives justification to those who want no part of it. My wish is just to see that be different.
A church is more than just a name on a building down the street. It’s supposed to be about the people. The people in the building are the church. That phrase, “a church without walls”, I had previously thought of more from the perspective of each individual church’s or denomination’s beliefs. Many might identify themselves as being part of the same religion, however, the beliefs or interpretation of scriptures is often very different. I saw these differences as being the walls that divided, walls that kept many people outside and have locked others inside. No one is influenced in a really healthy, positive way by these models and any benefits gained, are limited. These differences have caused issues, even wars, since the beginning of history. How to get these walls to come down is a daunting and even though I hate to use this word, it seems to be an “impossible” task.
My friend’s Facebook post helps me see this in a different light, though. It is possible to have a church without walls that every person on earth could be a part of, if they so choose to be. We’ve all heard about “paying it forward” and “random acts of kindness”. Many of us have enjoyed being a part of the Starbucks line where each person pays for the coffee of the person in the car behind them. It sounds so simple, but what if we all made a conscious choice each day to love the people that cross our paths through our actions? Even better, what if we looked for opportunities, even went out of our way to help someone, whether it be feeding the homeless on the streets of Phoenix or allowing ourselves to be inconvenienced to help a someone in need. Making a lifestyle choice to “love people however I can with whatever I have” doesn’t have to be based on what we believe or if we attend a church or not. Call me a dreamer if you want, but what a wonderful dream it would be, if each individual in the world could become,