Here is the church
Here is the steeple
Open the door
And see all the people
It’s another Saturday morning. A cold one.
A few years ago, the first Saturday of the month meant Jeff and I would be at Outdoor Church behind Manna House. It’s a gathering for those who don’t feel comfortable and/or welcome inside the “houses of worship” sprinkled throughout the city, for those who believe and for those who don’t believe but are hungry for a free meal.
I can’t say I know how they feel. I’ve generally felt welcome in any church building I’ve visited.
But then again, I can play the part. Clean clothes. Showered body. Arrival in a heated SUV.
These folks at Outdoor Church on Saturdays come mainly by foot. Some with alcohol on their breath. Or an empty belly. Or a demon they’re trying to outrun. (Not that different from Sunday morning in a traditional church?)
And today, once again, I’m questioning my role.
I stand in the bedroom of my house early that morning, after putting on three layers of shirts and a couple pairs of socks, and ask Jeff, “Tell me again why I’m going?”
I’ve caught him at a weak moment, too. Today we’re both strongly pulled to spend our Saturday on personal projects at home.
But Jeff finds a motivating answer, “Because there’s somebody there you can love on.”
I’m sold. I get in the car. We drive into town.
But when we get there, we’re alone.
No volunteers’ cars are in the parking lot preparing a hot meal for the hungry after the service. No chairs are set up outside for the guests. No guitars are set up for the worship band.
No people anywhere.
This is why I came? For canceled church? Where is this stranger I was supposed to love on?
Actually, it might not be a stranger. Maybe instead it’s someone I know quite well. Someone who needed a push out the door to put her mind on other things. Someone who needed to prepare her heart to serve even if there would be no one there to serve.
Maybe, just maybe, I was there to know that even when it’s just God and me, we still “have church.” Just being together is church.
So Jeff and I drive on. Drop a few books off at the library. Meander the back roads home. Take off all the extra layers.
And feel satisfied.
There will be people gathered at Outdoor Church again another day. But on this Saturday, waking up again to God in me, rediscovering the house of God inside my own body—I love knowing it can happen anytime, anywhere. Without doors, without steeples. And sometimes even without people.
Where is the church?
And it’s full.
Where have you seen God lately? Share in the comments.
revised from the archives
- Are We on the Same Page?
- First you listen. Then you act.