What About Church Out Here?
"As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen."
January 20, 2017, Words By: Lina Thompson, Image By:
One Sunday afternoon, I was driving through the neighborhood with a car full of local kids that were a part of our ministry. We pulled up to a four way stop. Now mind you, at the time this neighborhood was deemed an “at-risk” area and had all of the trappings that come with that label-gang activity, violence, drugs, etc.
On two of the corners were churches. It was a Sunday afternoon at about 2:30 and both congregations were just letting out. People were filing out of the church doors. On the third corner was a park that was notorious for some not-so-great activities. On this particular Sunday, a group of men were hanging out drinking 40’s. On the 4th corner, a group of young men were shootin’ dice.
The conversation that went down in my car as we pulled up to the corner went something like this:
Kid: See Lina, look at this.
Me: Look at what?
Kid: Look at what’s goin on here. This is crazy…(all the other kids agreeing and adding their two cents).
Me: What do you mean?
Kid: All these people getting outta church-just finish prayin, gettin’ their praise on — and they walk out…totally ignoring what’s goin’ all around them. They don’t even talk or look at these other people. Wassup with that?
Me: What do you think is up with that?
Kid: They (pointing to the church folk) don’t care. They don’t get it.
Me: Don’t get what?
Kid: Don’t get THIS! (as he points to all the corners…) Their Church ends inside there (points at the buildings). But what about church out HERE?
What about Church out here?
I’ll never forget that day. These kids intuitively knew that church isn’t about a building. How they understood, I don’t know. But they nailed it.
In the matter of a few minutes, I got schooled by a bunch of unlikely, theologically untrained teenagers
What about church out HERE? This question still challenges me…
In this passage, Jesus is beginning to gather his disciples. Typically, formal education for Jewish boys ended at age 15.
For boys who were bright enough, wealthy enough, theirs was the privilege of higher education, which meant they found a local rabbi they wanted to study under. They would search for a rabbi so they could follow him and learn from him. If that rabbi did not accept them (it was a bit like an application process), they would enter into the work force. In many cases, they went into the family business-like fishing.
Jesus actually went looking for people to follow him (that was different)! And he didn’t go looking for the obvious choices-the kids with good grades. He went to the “second tier”-the ones who maybe got rejected, or maybe even the ones who didn’t want to pursue more training-the ones that decided they didn’t care much for school and just wanted to go to work.
Jesus went looking-in unexpected places. Our God included the voices, perspectives, and life experiences of unlikely people from the start of his public ministry.
What about church OUT HERE?
Jesus went to the “streets” (in this case, by the seaside) to find those to which he would eventually entrust his message and his mission.
And what about Church out here? Addressing questions of mission demands that we take seriously how we see and understand leadership that comes from unexpected places.
Theology and discipleship aren’t only “formed” in a classroom, or in seminary, or in a church sanctuary. They are formed in the everyday traffic of our lives-at street corners, at four way stops, and in conversation with very unlikely theologians.
“What about church OUT HERE?”
Rev. Lina Thompson
Pastor, Lake Burien Presbyterian Church
Longtime Friend and former Board Chair, Street Psalm