By the mere mention of the title, now I’ve got that inane tune in my head again. “Do you wanna Fanta? Wanna Fanta?” Dangit! Our church has been manning (and womaning) the concession stand for the local high school football games. It’s the Billies’ band main way of raising money each year. They’ve struggled to find folks to man it, and since TJ is a core member of Journey, we decided we wanted to serve him and the school throughout the football season by selling Snickers… and Fantas.
It’s actually been enjoyable. One of our core convictions as a church is to serve our community. In order to serve your community, you must streamline your church activities (which we’ve done ruthlessly). You can’t simply tack on volunteer projects to an already full church calendar and be able to serve wholeheartedly. You’ll soon find your people exhausted and worn out. Many “pastors” then get frustrated with their people for not “sacrificing” or “carrying their cross.”
Yet, a full church calendar many times is symptomatic of a church that only exists for itself, to meet its members’ “needs.” It is not necessarily seeing its people maturing into the image of Christ, but it is sure keeping them busy. Busyness is not godliness. Nor does a full slate of religious programs, from kids to senior adults, equate to building the kingdom of God. Unfortunately in many churches, our activities and programs are simply religious alternatives to similar programs and activities already present in the community. Heaven forbid that we should dine with sinners… or that our senior adults should participate in that devel-ish local senior citizen’s center. I mean… they quilt there! (and occasionally… gasp… play bingo!)
We are earnestly trying to cultivate a mindset and lifestyle in our church that our community’s activities and interests should be those of our church. We seek to plug our church into the life and times of the community rather than creating a Christian subculture or Christian coountry club or Christian “Rotary Club” for ourselves. Our belief is that many churches are in full retreat from their society and community rather than engaging it lovingly, thoughtfully, and as salt and light. You cannot flavor that which you’re not in contact with. You cannot light darkness that you’re not in. So go join that senior center or Lion’s Club or volunteer to serve at the local library rather than filling another “slot” at your church. So many of those slots are only keeping the machine running and are doing little to advance the kingdom and bring people into the joy of knowing Christ for the first time – or more fully.
We do not believe in compromising the biblical message and call for repentance and simple faith in Jesus Christ. But we also do not believe that the best place to preach and communicate that message is in a religious building on certain designated (“holy”) times. The best gospelling occurs in the context of relationships, working alongside your “not-yet-Christian” (taken from Hirsch’s The Shaping of Things to Come) neighbor. As you faithfully live out the joy of your faith in Christ in FRONT of your community (rather than in your religious places and programmed events, you will see the Spirit begin the amazing and miraculous process of life transformation and faith giving.
We’ve got one more home game this season to work the concession stand. We’re indebted to servantevangelism.com for our shirts that we wear. On the back of our shirt, it says, “Journey Church has left the building…Gone to Serve.” May we all earnestly scale back our “religious activities” that seem only to meet our own needs rather than to serve the our neighbors’.
So, if you’re in Monticello next weekend and stop by the game…. “Wanna Fanta?”