Its heart stopping, isn’t it? So much weight behind those few words. But there is more behind them. You see, those ellipses say there is more to the story. And there is.
We are closing for one Sunday. We aren’t closing forever, which the title of this post may seem to indicate. Just for one day. On June 17, 2018, we will not gather together as Riverdeep Church at 627 Monroe Ave. Instead, we are closing the doors and SENDING OUT our people to reach and minister in the community.
So much of Christianity today is about gathering. In fact, we gather so much that it is incredibly easy to lose sight of the fact that there is a whole world OUT THERE who either knows nothing of Christ, or who has consciously chosen to stay away from the church. You see, we have asked the very world we are called to reach to become the missionaries and enter into the church’s context. Instead of Christians leaving their context and stepping in to the context of those far from God, we have asked people who don’t know God to become the missionaries by stepping in to OUR context, to learn OUR language, and to abide by OUR rituals. And to be honest, its not really working. Are church attendance numbers up or down these days?
Therefore, we are canceling our gathering for this Sunday and instead of getting together in worship, we have commissioned and sent out the members to worship through mission this coming Sunday. The thinking goes that almost anywhere a Christian goes in the midsouth on a Sunday morning, the spaces will be filled with people who 1) Are not in a local church, 2) Have walked away from church, 3) Are a believer, but have to work and are in desperate need of a joyful encouragement, and/or 4) Want nothing to do with the things of God. Sure, some people may have gone to the early service or a Saturday night worship service, but overall it is safe to assume that there is a unique opportunity until around 11:30am on Sunday to reach people who may not have an active and vibrant relationship with God and a local church.
Last Sunday we studied Luke 10:1-10, where Jesus sent out the 72. He gave them specific instructions, and this encouragement that He was sending them out where He himself “was about to go.” Furthermore, He encouraged his followers to pray that God would send out laborers out into the Harvest. So, the most logical application of this truth was to create a space and time for the people of God to be obedient to the needs He himself identified, and He himself is looking to provide. And to do it all as an act of worship through obedience.
We commissioned everyone to to take either two bottles of water (one for themselves and one for someone else) or $5.00 (either as a single bill or as ones) with them on Sunday. They were to pray and see if there was any direction or location they were to go as a family (not looking for new revelation about God, but seeing if the Spirit in them would lead them somewhere specific–Eph. 2:10, Is. 30:21, Rom. 12:2). If no overwhelming sense of direction, then to trust God’s Providence in their own holy inclinations and desire for the morning. After all, it is also Father’s Day so if they were to take Dad out for a nice breakfast, then maybe that waiter or waitress (who probably has worked 1st shift on Sunday for a while now) may just need that extra $5 (or more) and to know that God has not forgotten about them. That God’s eye is on those who are grinding it out, and that He wants to support and ease the burden of those who turn to Christ. To have conversations, not in a weird and strangely “Christian” way, but in a loving and authentic way that looks them in the eye and validates their experience and proclaims a better Gospel in Christ. What if someone decides to turn that $5 bill into a roll of quarters and spends some time at the laundromat on a Sunday morning feeding a couple people’s machines and just getting to know their life and story. In those few moments, it’s possible to see where someone may need to know Jesus’ hand of safety, or providing, or forgiveness, or acceptance. Aren’t we all made in the likeness of God anyway and deserve a few minutes of validation in the rhythm of Sunday morning laundry? He can be in that conversation.
Or maybe, if the weather permits, they can take a few moments and go to a local park and hand out some water to those in need. After all, if done in Christ’s name it is as if they are giving it to Christ as well. Or maybe they will stop by the offramp and spend a couple minutes with those panhandlers and get to know their name and their needs. Pray for and over them. Invite them into the Kingdom and into honest work so that they would not be in need (or help in finding them an honest job that will give them the structure their life may require). Or maybe they will spend some time in the lobby of their apartment building and talk with all the other people coming and going about their life. God is at work in so many other places than just our Church Sanctuaries/Worship Centers and lobbies.
We are less interested in gathering a crowd of passive believers, and more interested in sending out active laborers into the fields that God himself has proclaimed are READY to be harvested.
Most churches don’t consider canceling a Sunday morning services mainly because of pragmatism, because they’ll never see that week’s tithe or offering again. That amount of money is rarely, if ever “made up” on subsequent Sundays. So, will Riverdeep miss out on a week’s tithe? Maybe. But we are less worried about that, and much more excited to hear about the stories of our people and how God’s Spirit filled and visited them through conversations and gestures in the communities throughout Memphis. Much more than inviting people to next week’s service, we want people to know the love and care of God who said there is still so much room at the foot of the Cross. Come, all who are weary and all who are lost. There is room for you too! And there is forgiveness through Jesus that is limitless!
Come, enter into the Kingdom and know the pleasures of God!
And, so we GO out into the fields…