See what's coming soon! Coming in October »

Jump directly to the content
magcover

Already a subscriber?

Home > Issues > 2013 > Fall > Beyond Answer Man
Article Preview. Log in or subscribe now.

I was raised in the Christian church. It is one of the great gifts of my life. The church is still my home.

As a boy I was persuaded a magical membrane encompassed a Christian church. As you passed through the membrane, it marked you with an essential truth. You were one of the God-people. Those who chose to reside outside the membrane could not claim this eternal privilege. I was taught to take great pride, seasoned with gratitude, that I existed among those inside the church.

I continue to serve in the church. My eyes continue to take in the sounds, the faces, the symbols. The chairs are arranged so that everyone is facing the altar of Christ. Every body is pointed at the One from whom we all receive life. The very shape of the sanctuary reinforces the membrane belief. Those outside shuffle to and fro, oriented every which way, toward the things of this world. But for those inside, our bodies are our compass, pointed at the cross.

There is only one problem.

While my body is oriented toward the altar, my soul so often is not. Many Sundays, when my eyes shift from the external—the stage, sermon, and sacraments—to the internal, I must admit that my heart is not on Christ.

I wonder what would happen if we re-arranged the chairs of the church to reflect the congregants' true heart longings. How many chairs would still face the cross? How many would face some other place, a place far away? How interesting it would be to see the seating arranged according to the actual state of our hearts.

Then I wonder, what if we applied the same experiment to those beyond the membrane, giving a chair to every person in my neighborhood? How many would have chairs pointed at least partly toward the cross? Their conscious selves may not know that the gospel is the answer, but their longings would betray their desire for it. These people are the ones the Bible might call "the stranger."

"The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused. … Then he said to his servants, 'The banquet is ready. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.' So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the [strangers] they could find" (Matt. 22:2-3, 8-10).

How might that begin to look in today's church?

Being dazzled

I live in a delightful neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. Portland has gained quite a reputation. It has often been called the least-churched city in North America. Whatever the reputation, my little faith community and I knew that we wanted to understand our neighbors better. We wanted to understand their lives of faith.

So, we decided to ask them. It was only a beginning, but we compiled a survey and interviewed 200 of our neighbors. We interviewed folks in coffee houses and schoolyards, at bus stops and in parks, on front porches and at street corners.

We asked about their perceptions of religion ...

log in

To view the rest of this article, you must be a subscriber to LeadershipJournal.net. Activate your online account for complete access.

Tony Kriz is a writer and church leader from Portland, Oregon, and Author in Residence at Warner Pacific College.

Related Topics:CreativityEvangelismSalvationService
From Issue:Sexual Tensions, Fall 2013 | Posted: October 14, 2013

Also in this Issue: Fall 2013

Sex Talk and God Talk

Sex Talk and God TalkSubscriber Access Only

Some people have an easier time talking about sex than about God.
Going to Church Alone

Going to Church AloneSubscriber Access Only

How to stop doing church in a way that fosters individualism and isolation.
The Word on Proclaim

The Word on ProclaimSubscriber Access Only

Leadership Journal review
The Thankful Exchange

The Thankful ExchangeSubscriber Access Only

A leader's most significant transaction.

Not a Subscriber?

Subscribe Today!

  • Monthly issues on web and iPad
  • Web exclusives and archives on Leadership Journal.net
  • Quarterly print issues

Print subscriber? Activate your online account for complete access.

Join the Conversation

Average User Rating:

Displaying 1–1 of 1 comments

Paul Pastor

December 31, 2013  12:30pm

Strong wisdom from brother Kriz here.

Report Abuse
Use your Leadership Journal login to easily comment and rate this article.
Not part of the community? Subscribe, or on public pages, register for a free account.
Editor's Pick
A Tale of Two Weekends

A Tale of Two Weekends

What can preachers learn from professional storytellers?
Sister Sites