That’s what’s Happening

Starting a church is not something that normal people do. I’m fine with that.

Then again, what is normal, anyway? Google tells me that it’s "typical, expected." Normal is what we all agree on. But that means it can change. Normal can change when we alter our expectations. The societal expectation used to be that some people were better than others, based on the amount of money in their pockets or pigment in their skin. We know better now. We’ve agreed on a better set of understandings.

Change your expectations, shift your paradigm, and your whole world can change. It is, in fact, the only way that change can happen. You and I are powerful and free. No force in the universe can make us see what we don’t want to see, think what we don’t want to think. It’s always a matter of choice. That’s why I say that thing I say at the close of all of my Sunday talks, but I digress.

Here’s the point: We live and move and have our being in the Presence of God. All the time. But nobody can force miracles into our lives. We can decide that life is hard, that people are mean, that God has better things to do. That decision won’t change God, of course, but it will limit our ability to experience and participate.

Normal isn’t what’s given to us. It’s a matter of choice, and that decision dictates our experience.

I love talking about Water and Stone. It’s always on my mind, and it’s pretty much the only thing I want to discuss. Just try to get me to shut up about it. We’re working to build the kind of church we’d want to go to, and along the way we are trying to challenge assumptions about what church is supposed to be and get back to what it always was. We definitely don’t have this figured out yet, and we probably never will. That’s the way we want it. The work is always going to be bigger than we are. There’s so much to do, and every bit of it blows my mind. I hope we never stop tinkering with it. Water and Stone is my normal now.

But it is decidedly not normal for a lot of people. Jenny and I snuck away in the middle of the day yesterday to grab a cup of coffee and talk about the church. We’re excited, and things got intense. I’m quite certain neither of us was at an appropriate cafe volume as one awesome idea led to the next. As I worked myself into full Regis Philbin levels of enthusiasm, I became aware that folks at neighboring tables had become aware of us, too. Their body language reminded me that church is pretty abnormal.

For most people, church is pretty weird. For some, it’s a place so antiquated and irrelevant that they only go when their grandparents are in town. For others, it’s a label that indicates hate and fear. For a whole lot of people, it’s both.

But not for us. We’re taking the word back. We are taking church back.

If you’re reading this, you know what the word means and what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean a building, a fortress to protect against outsiders. It doesn’t refer to a judgement mechanism. But if that’s somebody’s expectation of church, if that’s their normal, that’s all they’ll get out of it.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Church isn’t a noun. It’s not a person, a place, or a thing. It’s also not an adjective. No more talk about who is and is not "church people” and what is and is not “church behavior.”

Church is a verb. When you do it right, church is what happens when people remember a little bit about who they really are as children of God and they decide to do something about it. Church tears down walls and welcomes everybody. Church lives in the real world, right here and now, and in so doing it transforms everything. It is the knowing that you, and me, and God are all in this together, combined with the passion to do something about it.

God is Good; that’s who God is, and what God does. That means that you are good, too. But that nature can’t just be a label. It has to be a life. So go do some good. That is where church comes in. If we do this right, it will change everything.