By Caleb Jones
I don’t think it’s a very controversial statement to say that Paris is incredible. Upon arriving, I fell head over heels in love with a city that had deep stories about my favorite writers, centuries of art and history, a vibrant music scene, and the food. . .oh my goodness, the bread and pastries! You could go to the same corner store everyday for a year and try something new every time.
Crystal had been to Paris before on a school trip, but this was our first time planning a trip on our own to a city where we didn’t speak the native language. Oh, and we had a 16 month old Charlie with us. It might surprise you to hear this, but I do not like being out of my element; the unknown terrifies me! I like to be in a place where I know which way the doors open, what to say to the cashier, and how to order lunch without a nervous breakdown from counting foreign currency while holding a baby. In other words, for me this trip could have easily been something to merely try and survive, but thankfully my American-born friend Jason knew Paris and he showed us his France. Truthfully, I think we would have done fine on our own, but he really helped me to relax and enjoy the city. I think at this point Jason had lived in France with his wife Loanne for 10 years, and their hospitality allowed us to have six incredible days, as opposed to three enjoyable days preceded by three days spent trying to get comfortable and familiarized with such a bustling, big city.
This story of hospitality happened over and over again while we lived in the UK. We’d go to a new place, be completely out of our depth, and someone would invite us into their home, tell us their stories, and show us their favorite parts of their city.
You know what else I figured out? No city is perfect, but when you're viewing it through the eyes of a relationship, you don't focus on the negatives and the things that could keep you from seeing the forest for the trees, so to speak.
I think the same is true for our Missional Communities and our Sunday gathering. As a small church, I think sometimes we worry too much about what people will think about our life on display. Despite our best efforts, there are a lot of imperfections on any given Sunday (surprise!). If we allow ourselves to start tallying up all of those imperfections along with a comparison of what might be going on at another church, it's a recipe for feelings of inadequacy!
The Holy Spirit guides us in growing more and more to look like God's people from God’s city. When the Holy Spirit corrects us, it's not always comfortable, but it is not a feeling of condemnation. Think about that. Who would want you to feel condemnation (inadequacy) for stepping out and inviting someone into your life?!? When you invite someone into your life and then invite them to our church, they are there relationally because they care about you, or at least they know you care about them. This is where our gatherings are seen for what they truly are. This is a family gathering, not an event.
90% of my spiritual imagination is spent thinking of ways that we as a church can earn the right to share the Good News of Jesus Christ by opening the Scriptures on Sunday morning. Of course, I want to make our gathering better, the message clearer, and our time more profitable, but I’m also aware that even if we pulled off the perfect service one Sunday, we are still a church full of imperfect people who are there solely because God reached out to us first, and we are now reaching out to others.