Though our Reaching Team has been inspiring us to “LovePaducah” for some time now, Saturday was our first attempt at a church-wide team approach to penetrating Paducah’s neighborhoods and centers of community life. And we didn’t stop at the city entrance sign, but sent one team all the way to Mayfield. Here are some photos, but I’m limiting the ones I’m posting so that the identities of those with whom we engaged are protected.
Well done, church family! And a special thanks to Dr. Van Sanders for lighting a fire in and through us.
As we met our neighbors and made many new friends, it seemed like every encounter was a divine appointment, and that the Lord truly had gone before us to open just the right doors of conversation – and just the right opportunities for loving people in the name of Christ. Among other highlights of the day, we made friends with some Somalis who have opened the door for our church to help them learn English.
How do we love Paducah? I’ll offer just a few suggestions, and invite yours.
1. Pray for God to remove from us all concern over building a personal or corporate “empire” that exalts us (or our congregation).
2. Pray for God to heal us of any jealousy over the success of another congregation, that we might recognize that there are more than enough people in need of grace to keep us all busy.
3. Pray for the tact to be able to honestly deal with sin, and real sin issues that dog the lives of our neighbors, without coming across as those who don’t also need the constant love of Christ.
4. Pray for the grace to say five nice things about Paducah before offering a single word of critique. (As we learned Friday in theory and Saturday in practice, our city is fast becoming more multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and transient. How cool is that? If we despise these trends, we will miss the missions moments – and miss the heart of Christ.)
Our missional love for Paducah must be a long-term commitment to care. Walking with our neighbors and friends for the long haul. I agree with Pastor Tim Keller, who recently closed out the “Together L.A.” event, that Christianity offers us all an “infinitely better identity” than that which is offered by the pervasive culture. But you and I won’t get a chance to draw our neighbors into that gospel good news if we walk away (or sequester ourselves in protective comfort).
Now if I had to add a #5 to my “love list,” it would be this: Pray for the wisdom to be willing to separate tradition from truth.
Sometimes you and I are not the church that we should be today because we’re so determined to be the church of our fondest memories. Though we know that those memories are seldom entirely accurate, we cling barbarously to our spiritual past as if our refuge is only there. Christ our Refuge is not only there, but He is here (John 8:58): “I AM.”
Christ is here. Christ is now. Here and now, we need His freedom and grace.
I wish I could tell you that I choose freedom and grace every day, but I don’t. You can all too often find me on the spinning gerbil wheel of pride, people-pleasing, and playing church.
Donald Miller, with whom I do not agree on every subject (nor he with me, I’m sure), makes an excellent point when he says in regard to all of the deeply ingrained habits that comprise our church-ianity: “I do all of this, not because I want to live scripturally, but because church culture has a certain rhythm. And when you have marched to this beat since infancy, it is difficult to break free from.”
Beloved in Christ, we must be willing to lay aside the comfortable in order to take up the call.
Pastor Brannin Pitre says in regard to all of our life-killing baggage of self: “Let’s leave that behind and make the church the church it’s supposed to be.”