(Observations in 2012)
At the entrance to our un-gated community rests a large and beautiful pond that some might call a small lake. It’s simply stunning with seven healthy white ducks who roam the edges allowing eating the bread offerings from small children. But there is something strange and funny about our little lake. It’s eerily shallow, though it doesn’t look it. It’s so shallow you could walk across it with getting up over your waist. The neighborhood drains the entire thing every few months and cleans it, and so all us who live here know that it contains no fish, not even small fish.
Here’s the funny thing. There is a sign that says no fishing, and none of the residents would waste their time fishing an empty pond. However, it never fails most weekends; people drive in and pull beside the small lake and unpack their chairs and small children with zebco rods and reels and wriggly worms and fish. People fish and fish, but of course to no avail, not even small perch can survive the pulling of the drain every few months. The kids all look so excited when they pile out of the family’s mini-van that none of us have the heart to tell them there’s no fish in there. Nope, we let the dad who is so confident he’s found the hidden gold mine of treasure for his family to fish in our community.
The other day, however, I couldn’t help pulling over to watch with great interest after seeing a pickup truck with a B.A.S.S. sticker on the back window, and a 40-year-old with his $400 rods and reels begin throwing a plastic worm all around the best looking spots. He cast with great precision up under the row of trees that guard the water below from the hot sun. He threw out next to some branches that had fallen off the 45ft. Oaktree and worked the worm slowly confident that some massive beast was lying in wait to ambush some food. He caught nothing either. The expensive equipment didn’t make a difference with no fish in the pond.
As I watched, I felt sorry for the guy and remembered all the families we had driven by that had such high expectations that they’d catch something at such a beautiful pond. I knew I was looking at the American Church for the most part. She fishes in the shallow pools of safety and comfort. She pulls up lawn chairs on Sunday mornings and cute little Zebco’s from the past and watches for the red and white bobber to go underwater so that she can feel like she’s doing something of significance. Or, well-meaning and incredibly trained and educated theologians take the stage to use artful poetry, art, and songs to craft just the right message to stir the heart.
The fishing excursion’s effectiveness is not found in the equipment one uses, but in the waters, one chose to fish. The church in the U.S. has become less and less effective in fulfilling the mission of Christ precisely because success is not found in a style, but the outcome.
The 24sixchurch philosophy encourages God’s people to fish wherever their week takes them. Sundays are not the day we go fishing but the day for singing, dancing, celebrating, and learning about God’s greatness. Every believer is critically essential to carrying out our mission in the city. Every Christ-centered church has a role to play in taking the practical love and message of Jesus to culture.
One might think that the 24sixchurch is just a play on words or a re-take on the 24/7 idea of a waffle house. It’s so much more than that, and I want to take some time and explain it more fully. Simply put, a 24sixchurch is not a program of ministries but more of a climate. It’s the idea that God’s people can be and are God’s church when they are not in worship on Sundays. It’s not a church service but the church serving.
I can remember some years ago working on a degree in Arizona and having the day off. I decided to take a long hike into a desert with some small hills. I learned so much that day from that 3-hour hike that the lessons are still fresh in my mind. Having grown up on the east coast being in a real desert, was a completely different experience.
I can remember starting the hike and being alone with no guide. I had all these images in my head of what I thought a desert would look like and what the experience might be. I had pictures of snakes and scorpions as I climbed the unmarked trails. Those images never materialized, but I realized very quickly just how dangerous the desert was. It wasn’t wild animals at all but something that had gone unnoticed as I set out on the journey. It was the climate.
The climate was all around me but completely unnoticeable at first. But about 30 minutes into this venture, I was utterly shocked by the power of this dry climate. I experienced a thirst as I had never experienced before. It was so real. It was more significant than the scenery and any animals that I might have uncovered. It was the most dangerous thing in the desert by far.
The same is true for the American church in this time and place. Some good church-going people might think that mainstream culture issues are the most dangerous to their children. But it’s not the inherent snakes and scorpions in the mainstream culture but how the church thinks about herself. It’s the climate inside the four walls of the American church that threaten our children.
Every Sunday, church campuses everywhere swell to sing some happy and upbeat songs and a few melancholy songs, followed by a prayer, an original video, and an offering and message. The same thing has been repeated over the last century.
The mature idea is that all the believers disperse into the marketplace to make a difference. Some do to be sure. It’s been my experience that most good church people are on an island all by themselves through the week. Either because of certain legalities, H.R. policies or even just plain ole lethargy can’t be involved in anything overtly Christ-centered.
The 24sixchurch is a way of saying we don’t do “church” with happy songs and sad songs only, but we are the church even during the week.
The 24sixchurch has one main message. We are the church all over the city no matter where we work or go to school or function in our daily lives.
The church is who we are and not what we do. In the 24sixchurch, we believe that we can flourish as God’s people and not have to use Sundays as our primary way of connecting people far from God. It means we are all the church six days a week as we are in diverse places all over the city – and we come together one time a week to celebrate what God has done through us in touch His city all week long.