Lately, I've noticed that I've gotten a lot of similar comments from different people. Some of these comments have been leveled at me, while others have been leveled at other staff members at Journey. These comments (by the way, "comment" is just a polite way to say complaint in this context), vary in a lot of ways, but the gist of all of them is this: either myself, or another staff member, or all the staff have distanced ourselves, act differently toward, keep at arms length, or are just generally less available to the person who is making the comment.
When these comments have been leveled at me, here is how I have responded. "What do you mean? Don't you have my cell phone number?" (yes) "Have I avoided your phone calls or failed to call you back?" (no) "When you have asked for some of my time, have I ever told you I didn't have time? (no) "Have I ever failed to make time for you?" (no) "Do I avoid you when I see you at church?" (no) "So, I don't get it. What's the problem?" The answers at this point vary widely, but no one ever really has a solid answer to that question. So I shrug it off and move on, until the same scenario happens all over again with someone else.
I haven't been able to figure out what this was all about until this past weekend. I met a guy who came to Journey for the first time. I introduced myself, let him know who I was and chatted with him a little before the service. After the service was over, I connected with him again, wanting to know how he enjoyed the service, etc. We talked for a bit, and then I gave him my cell phone number and told him to call me sometime and we would go get coffee and hang out. He seemed genuinely appreciative and maybe even a little impressed that I gave out my number so readily and offered to hang out some time. It was after that conversation, that it dawned on me why I have been receiving these strange comments.
All of you who have made these comments to me were at one time in the shoes of the guy that I met this weekend. You were new to Journey, and I (or another staff member) was pursuing you offering to meet with, get coffee and hear your story. You see, we did this (and continue to do this) because we care about you and genuinely want to connect you with Jesus. When you first come through those doors of The Warehouse, we don't know who you are. We don't know what your story is. We don't know where you stand with Jesus, and our hearts desire, our mission, is to help you follow Jesus. So we pursue you and seek to help in any way that we can. You were the mission.
But here's the deal: at Journey, we fully expect that you are going to join in on the mission with us. We will NEVER turn inward. It's not about us. As a church, we exist only to further the mission, to reach more people and help them follow Jesus. Once you've been coming to Journey for awhile and begin to call Journey home and we know that you are following Jesus, you are no longer the mission. Yes, we still care about you. Yes, we still have time for you. Yes, we still want to walk alongside of you and continue to help you follow Jesus. But no, we are not pursuing you anymore. I will challenge you to try this: if you pursue me, I will always find time for you. I'm not too busy for you. But you are not the mission. You should be ON MISSION with us. You should be pursuing people who are new, giving them your number, offering to hang out with them, finding out their story, and seeking to help connect them with Jesus! You are either on mission or you are the mission. If you are no longer the mission, but you don't want to be on mission, then quite frankly, you probably need to find another church.
Recently, I heard a statement that might be the stupidest thing I've ever heard. Someone said, "I get you're all about the mission, but I feel like you're too much about the mission. I feel like you focus too much on reaching people for Jesus and not enough on those of us who are already here at Journey."
I honestly, didn't even know now to respond to that. All I could think was, "Did you seriously just say that out loud? I mean, even if I ever felt that way, I would be too ashamed to actually say that out loud."
Listen, if you're not the mission, then be on mission. Let's keep doing what God has called us to do. Let's help people follow Jesus. Let's make Jesus famous in Raleigh.