On Palm Sunday I put on my priest stole (yes, I have one, and it’s awesome) and headed out into our local community to hand out palm branches and invite cards to this blog to people who were working at some of the local businesses Dana and I frequent throughout a typical week.
Advance Auto Parts.
I went inside to each place, went up to the counter and told whoever was there that I was a local pastor going around to local businesses to give palm branches to people who were working that day who either couldn’t go to church or maybe didn’t want to, but still would like to take part in the celebration of the day. I told them that it was a pleasure to meet them and I prayed they and their family would have an incredible Easter.
After I visited those places I then went to stand at a intersection down the street from our house to hand some out to people who were stopped at red lights.
That’s the biggest question that people have asked me. In the days leading up to the event and for days afterwards, people asked me “why?”
What’s the point?
Why are you doing this?
What’s the goal?
Church has always bothered me, to be honest. I used to pastor a church and the thing that always bugged me was this idea that people had to come to us. In the first church I pastored, I remember every Sunday the elders and deacons would literally count the people who came each weekend and would tell me if attendance had increased or decreased from the previous week and then they’d want to know what my plan was for “drawing more people in.”
Every week and every meeting it was the same thing …
“We need to get more young people in here.”
“That’s why we hired you! You’re young.”
“What’s your plan for drawing people in?”
And then I got involved in a church plant, which is fancy language for starting a church. Our church met in a garage and it was really cool (literally, freezing in the Winter) and we had a lot of fun, but then the fun started to leave when I started to feel the pressure of “growing” and all of a sudden the questions started to come …
“So, what’s your plan for outreach?”
“And once we outreach, how are we going to get people to come to us?”
“How can we show them that our church is the best church?”
“Gotta come to church every Sunday.”
“Hey it’s great to meet you, make sure you come back next week!”
“How much longer will we be in the garage?”
“Maybe if we go to a bigger space that’s more convenient, more people will come?”
You mean we can’t just keep doing this? Meeting? Talking about God? And faith? And making an impact in the lives of people in our community? And inviting others to join us?
We gotta talk about budgets?
And how to get people to come and join us?
So we can get a bigger venue?
With brighter lights?
I hate it. It’s not that I don’t want to see people coming to church or that I don’t think church is important or anything like that. Quite the contrary, actually. I think church is super important and I think everyone should be plugged in somewhere.
The thing I hate, though, is this idea that people have to come to us and that we’ll do anything we need to do to get them to come through our doors and sit in our pews or chairs or whatever every single Sunday. And I really hate how we tend to think that people who go to church every Sunday without fail are somehow more holy or better or closer to God than the people who only go to church once and a while or (GASP!) only on Christmas and Easter.
And, oh my God, I especially loathe when the pastor has the audacity to make a joke about that from the pulpit on Easter and Christmas and publicly shame all the people who came to church for that day, but aren’t Sunday regulars.
And so that’s why I went out on Palm Sunday.
NO, I’m not starting a church. Blech. That’s the last thing I want to do, honestly. And no I’m not trying to be cool. I’m already cool, so HA. And no, I’m not trying to buck the system. And no, I’m not trying to be a rebel. Nor am I trying to prove a point, stand out from the crowd, or anything like that.
Rather, I went out on Palm Sunday because I wanted people to know that they didn’t need to go to church to experience church or to be loved and accepted by God, but that this particular element of church was coming to them backed with the inclusive, over-arching love of their Creator and that they could go to a place on the Interwebs (this blog), as well, to experience church and God and faith and Christianity and questions and wrestling a little bit more.
I learned this thing in school about Church 1.0 and 2.0.
Church 1.0 is traditional church — you come to church, you sit down, you face a stage, you stand up and sing, you sit down and give your money, you stand up and sing, you sit down to listen to a preacher for 30 minutes, you stand up and sing, and you go home. Every thing is planned and orderly and typically done within a certain timeframe.
Church 2.0 is a little bit less traditional in that there’s more dialogue. You might stand up and sit down a few times and you might put your money in the offering plate. The same elements are there, but there’s a lot of dialogue and movement. The preacher might have a lesson planned, but the congregation is typically sitting in a circle of sorts (it’s often called “church in the round”) and might break up into groups to discuss a point and then come back together for the rest. The pastor has a rough plan, but he/she knows that the movement of the conversation might take it in different directions. And everyone’s opinion is welcome, too. That’s a really cool thing. Just because I’m the pastor, that doesn’t mean my word is final. Instead, I’m kind of like Google in that if you ask me a question, I might have 30 different answers and can point you in 30 different directions to take it a part yourself or in your group or whatever. I might be there to guide you along or help you stay within some sort of boundaries, but I don’t hold the final answer. God does and the idea is for you to learn to seek Him and hear Him for yourself.
I think me going on the street for Palm Sunday was the start of Church 3.0 in my life.
Instead of sitting in rows and staring at a preacher preach in Church 1.0 (the first church I pastored) or instead of sitting in a circle and dialoguing in Church 2.0 (where the church plant was headed) … I stepped off of the stage, out of the circle, beyond the walls, and engaged people in their workplaces, the places where they spend a fair amount of their time during the week and then invited them to hop on their mobile device or computer later in the week to visit this blog and engage the material in their own way, on their own time, from the comfort of … wherever they want.
No sales pitch.
No, “here’s a Palm Branch from my church. We’ll be meeting next Sunday, too. You should come.”
Just, “here’s a Palm Branch from Palm Sunday. I pray you and your family have a blessed Easter, may God bless you.”
I got some interesting responses that I might blog about another time, but for today I just wanted to share the why behind what that day meant for me. I’ve been involved in ministry for a bunch of years now and I can honestly say that those couple of hours I spent walking around our community engaging people in their natural habitats … it was the most moving “ministry-type” thing I’ve ever done.
And there’s plenty more to come, we’re just getting started.
Stay tuned, and much love.