I Dream of a Church (#13)

1 04 2011

In my “I Dream of a Church” series I having been writing about a collection of thoughts, ideas, and questions I’ve had from the last several years about what a church might look like (given an ideal situation). I don’t claim for any of these to be original, ground-breaking, or otherwise amazing. You can find other entries in this series by clicking here.

#13. I dream of a church where…

There is a front porch.

Many churches are good at greeting visitors once they enter the door. Warm smiles, handshakes, and sometimes even hugs await the newcomer at the entry way. They are sent a message: “You are here. You are welcome here. You belong here. We are glad you are here.” …and that works for a lot of people.

But it doesn’t work for a lot of other people. (Partly because some people don’t belong here).

Some people don’t want to feel like they belong once they are here. They want to feel like they belong long before they ever enter the church building. That’s what the front porch is about. The front porch is the near-neutral place where people can meet and interact. It is a place where a visitor can belong without really belonging.

It’s like when you move into a new neighborhood and don’t know the neighbors. I suggest that a good neighbor might invite you over for a drink or some food. The first visit with your new neighbor will likely be more comfortable if it takes place on their porch or in their backyard… not actually inside the house. Places like porches and backyards are more neutral than family rooms and kitchen tables. Family rooms are too intimate for a first visit… they’re too personal. Family rooms have family pictures. They have favorite books and movies. They have their own memories and stories. Family rooms are about the owners of the house – not the visitor.

At some point – perhaps when the relationship is more established – you will be invited into the house… into the family room with the pictures and the books and the memories – though perhaps this will not be your first encounter with these things. Perhaps at some earlier visit these items were brought out to be shown to you… in the more neutral ground of the front porch.

I dream of a church with a front porch. Not a literal front porch (though that would be fun too), but a place, space, or time that is a more neutral ground. A place, space, or time where people can belong without really belonging.

Thoughts?

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