Even though it was a small price to pay to have two of my best friends here for a few days, I did spend uncomfortable amounts of time in the car picking them up from the airports. Along the way, I sat in some traffic, going nowhere fast, just blasting my A/C while watching the heat rise from pavement in greasy waves like bacon. I pondered traffic, hoped the reason for it did not mean someone had been hurt. When I got to a certain exist, which will remain nameless, the traffic eased and I went along at near-posted speeds.
I don’t understand traffic. I don’t know why, in the absence of accidents or emergency vehicles or someone pulled over, it just… slows. Being in the car that long can wear on me, but in this case, it made me start to think about traffic as a metaphor for what happens in the church. We’re all, more or less, going in the same direction, but there are people entering and exiting the freeway, some are stalled, others remember just in time what they wanted to do, and cut across three lanes without signaling and cut people off. Okay, maybe that last part was just me…
Let’s start with entering the freeway of church. Right now, at Messiah, we’re seeing new families and it’s our responsibility to make sure the signs are clearly displayed, literally. There are new signs going up, we’re moving the welcome center, currently located in the narthex to a more central location nearer the parking lot. That way, newcomers can meet someone who can direct them. Beyond that, we expect entrances at other on-ramps, like new births, transfers from other congregations or regions of the country, Starting Point, a class for seekers, who want to know more about Christ and his Church. It is my fervent hope that these newcomers will find it easy to move with us, going in the same direction in order to arrive at our destination.
There will be, unfortunately, some exits. There will be those who pass away, who transfer to other congregations or move away, and still others, who decide they wanted to go in another direction, that they would prefer to take a rest stop. We can, and should, investigate why that is. The tendency, though, is to place blame. When someone leaves, we blame the music or the pastor or the kids’ program. Rarely do we NOT lay some sort blame on the Church. There are going to be people who choose not to attend a particular church anymore because they get their feelings hurt or because they have better amenities at the church down the road or because they want ready-made services, rather than participating in the growth of a congregation. Honestly, I see these as self-serving reasons. I have left for some of these reasons. I once attended a church with a congregation of about 15. At that time in my life, I didn’t want the responsibility that comes with being 1/15 of the church. It wasn’t their fault, though.
There are other things that contribute to traffic build-up in the church. Rubbernecking is one. When tragedy strikes, scandals surface or someone leaves, there are those who will endanger the group by craning their necks to survey the wreckage. We love to talk about that stuff, about the internal workings and dysfunctions of the staff, council/board or ministries. It’s dangerous, that tendency we have, that morbid curiosity.
We get tripped up by stalled cars, debris or other obstacles . We don’t look ahead far enough to see what might be in our way. We need long-term planning, we have to keep the path to our goal clear or give ourselves the opportunity to re-route around those roadblocks. Too often, I think, we become myopic drivers. If it doesn’t concern us, our immediate future, we push it to the periphery and are then surprised when we run roughshod over that same issue. For instance, I could easily dismiss concerns about youth or seniors, because those things don’t affect me, yet. I have preschoolers; I’m in my 20s. However, if those things concern me now, those programs are in place and thriving by the time I need them and it gives real benefits to people, now.
In which direction are you travelling? Do you want to sit, stuck in spiritual traffic, or help keep the path to Christ clear? We all have some different priorities, but in order to keep it flowing, we have to avoid the major and minor traffic kerfuffles that hinder our journey.