The church I attend, Knightdale United Methodist, has developed a new mission statement, Splinter the Darkness (there’s more, but I don’t remember it right now). Truthfully, it’s as much vision statement as mission statement and that’s okay with me. Not being one to get hung up on the particulars, I tend to prefer things short and to the point. As I said, I don’t remember the whole thing; really, all I’ve retained is the part I kind of like. To be honest, I wasn’t all that thrilled with the rest of it. But, you work with you’ve got and Splinter the Darkness is it.
This new mission was unveiled last Sunday and our pastor, the Right Reverend Bryan Siefert, told us that he’d be doing a sermon series to lay it out for us. Now, I don’t recall everything he said last Sunday and I don’t think I’m alone in that. I’m not saying it didn’t make an impression, just that it doesn’t automatically leap to the fore. In the past, church was where we received the lion’s share of religious education. Not anymore, the explosion in communication technology has taken over that spot. Between my abysmal short-term memory and all the stuff I read online, I’m lucky to remember going to church a couple of days later, let alone what’s said. No, it takes something big to stand out from the digital crowd buzzing in my head. I think this past Sunday will make the cut, however. In a sermon about radical hospitality and how that should affect our new mission statement, he gave us some examples of how we might be falling short of the kind of hospitality Jesus calls us to offer. The first was that of a single mother, hammered by the stresses of the world and the second involved a homosexual man and the men’s group. In both examples, the question was just how welcoming and open we are to people who are different than we are. Sadly, all to often the answer is not very much.
Now, I loved that sermon and had been waiting to hear it for quite a while. But, it didn’t go far enough. You see, it was all focused inside the church. The Methodist church has a long tradition of social justice and working in the community. This concept was especially important to our founder, John Wesley. Unfortunately, the idea seems to have lost traction over the years. For too many people, church is somewhere you go, not something you do. The church has become a building, an organization. You go to church on Sunday, maybe Wednesday, and forget about it the rest of the week. We like to gather in our very nice structures, enjoy our nice, non-threatening music and listen to nice sermons that don’t challenge us to step outside our comfort zones and minister to those that need us most. We sit around and obsess about how people don’t know who we are, blaming it on the fact that we don’t have a sign out front. If we were out in the community, doing the things that Jesus would have us do, a sign would be unnecessary. When people drove by our building, instead of wondering what it was, they’d say “That’s the church where the folks who help people go.” We need to remember the darkness is out there and you aren’t going splinter a damn thing sitting in the sanctuary.