As I look at the downtown neighborhood around the church I pastor, I can count at least a dozen different churches of various sizes and languages. It dawns on me that our neighborhood doesn’t need more churches. The area is essentially saturated with potential missional outposts for the Kingdom, assuming they are about the mission of the Kingdom. What they aren’t is unified. By “they” I mean we. Instead, we’re medieval in our makeup–little fiefs that make up a kingdom, but disjointed and obsessed with our own little corners. Meanwhile, the choir is being preached to and the outsider is still, well, on the outside.
What we need, at least in our little corner of the Kingdom, is not more churches, but an ugly Church. An ugly Church that will dispense grace and hot soup or offer love and a listening ear. An ugly Church that will practice hospitality on a street corner or in the poorest homes. An ugly Church that is comfortable with discomfort, amenable to awkwardness, and courageous in its compassion. What we need is an ugly Church that will not just meet in the neighborhood, but will make itself an integral and indispensable part of the neighborhood.
I would really love see all these churches unified in getting ugly. It means that each church must set aside its personal agenda for a kingdom agenda, to stop worrying as much about growing their church as growing the Church. I’m certain that Jesus isn’t going to question me on budgets and butts in the seats when I have to give account for myself and those I have been entrusted to lead. Jesus makes that pretty plain in Matthew 25:31-46. When that time comes, being a goat doesn’t mean “greatest of all time.” It actually means quite the opposite.
I’m not sure how we get there, but it starts by prayerfully reaching out and having conversations. Many times, the conversations aren’t between pastors, but lay people with a common vision. We must have dialog, backed up with action. When Jesus prayed for His disciples, He prayed that they would be one. May that be our prayer, too.