Therefore, Jesus also suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his own blood. Let us then go to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. – Hebrews 13:12-14
There are up-sides to being in crisis, not the least of which is the way that desperation focuses one’s prayer life. If you have been following this blog recently, you know that we at Capitol Hill Friends are wrestling with how to move forward in the face of low energy and the apparent lack of the critical mass necessary to become a self-sustaining community. As you might imagine, God and I have been having some serious conversations lately!
I am learning that I should never underestimate the power of desperate prayer
. God truly does draw near to those who are humbled and broken, and coming to the end of my rope has done wonders for my willingness to rely more fully on the Lord’s guidance. In the midst of this soul-searching, I have been amazed at how clearly the Spirit has responded to my prayers. I have asked for direction, and God is providing it.
For years now, one member of Capitol Hill Friends has always been asking, “Who are we called to serve?” Virtually every time we have met together, John has raised this question, to the point that it has become almost a joke among us.
To be quite honest, the question has often annoyed me. I never felt I had a good answer for it, except to say that Capitol Hill Friends is a community for anyone who wants to go deeper in their walk with Christ. I do not not like the idea of picking out a specific market demographic and “selling” God to them. Would we try to be a hipster church for urban twenty-somethings? A family church for couples with small children? A white, middle class church? A multi-racial, inter-class church? To me, “Who are we called to serve?” sounded a lot like, “What is our market niche?”
I am not very interested in viewing the church from a marketing perspective. I do not believe that faith communities are a commodity to be bought and sold. While I understand the need to present the gospel in a way that is culturally appropriate to the place we live, I do not want to pre-determine what demographic our fellowship is aimed at. This commodification cheapens the very idea of the Church. Instead of aspiring to be the body of Christ, our fellowships risk being transformed into little more than social clubs where people of similar class, race and subculture can talk about Jesus.
And yet, the question has nagged at me. Who are
we called to serve? What is our particular mission here in the city? There are thousands of local congregations spread out across our region; what use does God have for one more? These questions are not ones of sales pitches and market analysis. These are basic issues of call and spiritual gifts. What is are the specific ways that God wants to use our particular fellowship to reflect the love of Jesus?
As I have prayed about the future of Capitol Hill Friends, God has shown me that there is indeed a particular people that we are called to serve. This people is not a demographic group in any traditional sense. It is not a group bounded by class, ethnicity, sub-culture or political persuasion. Rather, our common experience at Capitol Hill Friends is that we do not match the expectations that the wider culture has of us. In some profound way, we do not quite fit in. We are looking for the city that is to come, not this present one where we reside as sojourners.
In a city that worships power and thrives on appearances, we feel God calling us into friendship with those who are marginal, unimpressive in the eyes of the world. In a culture that glorifies displays of wealth and consumption, we sense God’s invitation to lead lives of simplicity and creativity. In a society that values facts, figures and formal education, we long for God’s true wisdom, which seems like foolishness to the world. In a nation that places a very high value on strength and self-sufficiency, we know that we are weak and in need of God’s help.
Capitol Hill Friends stands in solidarity with those who do not fit into this world’s conceptions of wisdom and power and wealth. We are called to serve those who stand outside the gate of the city, rejected by polite society. Rather than playing dress-up and pretending to be successful, God calls us to stand with the misfits. Because the truth is, we are misfits, too.