We are doing it again. So, you are probably used to seeing the title and know we don’t mean forever. It has been just under a year since Riverdeep canceled our Sunday service to go out into the city and communities to serve and share with others.
Last time we went out it was Father’s Day and I will never forget driving up on one of my neighborhood friends who was passed out on the sidewalk, in the heat, surround by the pieces of a broken glass bottle. I got out of the truck and cautiously walked up trying to determine if he was dead, the whole time thinking I had my whole family in the vehicle just a few feet away. As I woke up my friend, he was glad to see us and especially grateful to be given a cold bottle of water. I went back to the truck, got my 7-year old son out to join me. Over the next few minutes, we encouraged and made sure our friend was aware of where he was and tried to help figure out his plan for the rest of the day. Just something to bring a little structure and order to a life without much of either. We prayed together before we left, just asking God for peace for both us and him.
Since we canceled on Father’s Day last year, its only fair that we get to go out and serve on Mother’s Day also. What a perfect holiday to celebrate nurturing moms and their desire to make sure people are left feeling taken care of and better than when they arrived. So we are cancelling the Sunday morning church service in order to go and worship God out in the communities where God has already planted us.
At Riverdeep Church, we value what God does away from the building as much as what He does within the building. We believe this “going out” is a beautiful expression of the Gospel and a faithful representation of what God has called the church to be and to do. Let us go out into the “highways and hedges” and find people where they are at and where they are in need, and encourage them by sharing the love of Jesus in tangible expressions.
In theory, anywhere we go away from a church building on a Sunday morning we will encounter people who are not in church for one reason or another. Maybe they are a Dr. or Nurse who is required to work this Sunday shift because they have no other choice and they deeply miss their church home. You could have a server who is a single mother who works the weekends to make ends meet for her young family. It’s is entirely possible you run into someone in the park around the neighborhood who used to go to church but has given up on the idea that God could ever love them. The statistics tell us that millions of people across the U.S. have walked away from the Sunday gathering. And if they’ve done that, then they’ve turned their back or lost interest in the one organization that God gave to support and enable their spiritual growth.
I said this last time we canceled, and I’ll say it again: 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.
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 Mother’s Day so if they were to take Mom 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. 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.
If you were planning to visit with us this Sunday May 12, we apologize for any inconvenience and encourage you to come back next Sunday on the 19th! It will be an equally beautiful Sunday with the same great community our friends and neighbors have come to love and except from us.
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…