Sunday I spoke at a church in the middle of nowhere.
It took me two hours and a handy GPS to find this little church in the middle of a single, square-block town buried in the Rocky Mountains. When we pulled up, my son and I both did a double-take.
But, surely YES. This was, indeed, the church I was booked to speak at. The entire building looked like something out of a Laura Ingalls Wilder book. A green and white, one room schoolhouse that morphed into a church building on the weekend. It could have fit on the main floor of my house. With extra space left over.
My pride would love to mask my true response, but authenticity requires otherwise:
What in the world am I doing here?
What transpired in the next 3 hours more than answered my question. Sure, I gave a 45 minute message, and it went “alright.” It was a brand new message, and still had some kinks to work out. But that didn’t even matter. It wasn’t about me and my silly little message. It was about a lesson I needed to learn. Again. This is what happened:
- I watched a group of 40 people — as different from each other as grapes and carrots — worship God in complete unity.
- I listened to several individuals talk about their incredible faith journey.
- I marveled at undivided attention and enthusiasm toward the Word of God.
- I sat at the edge of my seat as I listened to a group of teenagers tell me their stories of adoption (nearly all the youth in this church are adopted).
- I received a man’s words of encouragement as he scurried off to deliver food to a food bank in the community.
- I listened as a cancer survivor told her story about 4th stage breast cancer and the 6 kids she’s still raising (3 adopted).
- I sat slack-jawed as parents told me how God called them to adopt children who were not their own after raising many others.
Sometimes the churches closest to God’s heart and mission come in packages we don’t expect. This is a church of a few dozen people who are day-in and day-out living the Great Commission. They’re feeding the hungry, providing financial opportunities to the struggling, taking in the orphans, and preaching the Word, in season and out of season.
And I was brought to my knees in humility before the awesomeness of God.
Once again, God graciously showed me little corners of my heart still harboring pride and arrogance. Sometimes I think my big, shiny church is doing it better than everyone else. Shame on me. I realize that as much as I love Jesus and try to live for him, sometimes I can still be a church snob.
How about you? You might be a church snob if you:
- Judge the effectiveness of a church by the size of the building
- Esteem a ministry according to the prominence of its leader(s)
- Measure success solely by the Sunday morning attendance
- Determine the worth of the message according to appearance of its package
40 people in a remote, financially strapped community being Jesus to the poor, lost and lonely.
I could learn a thing or two from them about being the church. Like a widow with two pennies, sometimes it is the world’s invisible people that God sees most of all.
Have you ever caught yourself being a church snob? Have you ever been surprised by God’s activity in unexpected places?