About a month ago, a visitor came in to speak with Pastor Hartmut. â€œYouâ€™re doing all the right things,â€ he said encouragingly, â€œbut youâ€™ve forgotten a few places to knock on doors and to meet folks.â€ So he pointed those places out, suggesting how our church with a few folks could penetrate the oftentimes closed doors of particular apartment buildings. This visitorâ€™s special interest was quite remarkable since he belongs to a local synagogue, but his words brought up a reoccurring concern of our congregation: how do we respond to our community directly? Where do we meet folks, find out their needs, concerns, and offer support while at the same time expressing our faith?
Now you might think: weâ€™ve done so much to welcome people in. And that is true. If we look at all that is reported in our newsletters, they certainly are a chronicle of our activities and our outreach. Truly, weâ€™ve begun to be a special place for some people through the Lunchtime Recital Series, the House of Manna, besides all the other small groups which use our facilities: Princeton Songwriters, Martial Arts, Amachi Program, Yue Yue Ensemble, to just name a few. But these donâ€™t generally offer an opportunity for cross-pollination. In other words, where we meet them and they us; when we get a chance to talk about what moves us to be here.
On the other hand, letâ€™s take stock in our communal lives: it seems the more unusual our worship services, or our dinners, or even our trips are, the more participation and excitement folks express. Moreover, people bring their friends and invite their extended family. So whatâ€™s that telling us? And even though, some of us are looking into our buildings and wondering how they could be changed structurally; while others of us are looking into how we can become a place of learning â€˜spirituallyâ€™ by providing special lectures, and still others consider how to get more community groups in to use the building.
All of these things are helpful, yet it seems that we are missing the point: How we are expressing Godâ€™s calling as a Christian people? The Apostle Paul writes in Romans: â€œâ€¦thus I make it my ambition to proclaim the good news, not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on someone elseâ€™s foundation, but as it is written, â€˜Those who have never been told of him shall see, and those who have never heard of him shall understand.â€™â€ [15:20-21].
If we took this passage as a challenge, I wonder what we would discover? Have we really been reaching folks who havenâ€™t yet experienced the good news who are in search of a loving and supportive community but just donâ€™t know where to find such in this developing city?
Adding this to our summer reading list, perhaps while sitting by a pool or even at the beach, please take a few moments to reflect on how we proclaim the good news. How do we interact with others and have simple conversations about our faith? When do we offer a few words, even a prayer, that indicate to our friends and family why we spend so much time at FRC? I think that this statement, said by a friend who visited our worship for the first time, recently, expresses it all: â€œWell it was simple, really. Itâ€™s just that Pastor Hartmut asked me to come.â€
How can we be ambitious like the Apostle Paul, inviting, proclaiming, praying and speaking about the One who moves and inspires us?
Enjoy your summer!